The Sunday After New Year’s – The Lord’s Day
My dear Children: As we pass through life we are like ships at sea. At times we sail along peacefully and calm, but again we run into a storm, and the boisterous waves threaten to engulf us. On every side we are surrounded by dangers. And do you know what these dangers are? Sometimes it is Satan, who goes about “like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”; sometimes it is the world trying to ensnare us; and again it is our own sinful flesh. But though our bark may be covered by the waves of constant temptation, we must not lose courage, for we have a life-boat in prayer. It is true we should “pray always” according to our Saviour’s injunction, yet Sunday has been set aside as a day of prayer, on which we should honor God by fervent religious exercises, and implore His graces for time and eternity.
It is called the Day of the Lord, because it is the day on which Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Therefore devote it to the Lord, and do not, by dissipation and vice, make it the monopoly of the devil. On this day especially return thanks to Jesus for the light of faith with which He has enlightened you.
St. Gregory, the celebrated Bishop of Tours, who lived in the sixth century, relates that a certain laborer of Auvergne, having yoked two oxen to a plough, did not hesitate to go forth to labor in his field on Sunday.
While he was thus engaged, God was moved to punish him. The plough broke in two. Instead of ceasing his sinful labor, he went to look for an ax, and with it began to mend the plow. As he held the instrument in his hands, one of them became suddenly paralyzed, and every effort made to detach it was unavailing. About two years afterwards, the poor man, recognizing in his affliction the hand of God, was inspired to visit the tomb of the holy martyr St. Julian, where he spent the night before the ensuing Sunday in devout prayer to the saint to beseech God to have mercy on him and forgive him.
On the following day, in the presence of an immense multitude of the faithful who had come to assist at the Holy Sacrifice, his hand opened of itself, and the handle of the ax he had so long held in it fell to the ground.
This extraordinary example of the punishment inflicted by God upon those who neglect to obey His precepts became for all those who saw it the cause of an earnest resolution to observe the sanctification of the Lord’s day with greater and more exact fidelity.
But if we are not to do manual labor on Sunday, neither are we to spend the day in idleness and sloth. We should go to Mass and if prevented from doing so we should say our Mass prayers at home Let us not abuse this day by the service of mammon; let us seek not temporal but eternal riches, and carefully avoid all servile work which renders impossible the day’s sanctification.
A certain miller who dwelt in a town in France, was in the habit of pursuing his trade every Sunday and festival in order to increase his gains. While the villagers were attending the high Mass at the parish church, he might be seen at his mill, employed in his usual avocations, so much so that his irreligious conduct had become notorious in the neighborhood. One day he went out as usual to his work, but, seeing the people pass on their way to church he hid himself behind the sails of his mill, which were at times stationary through want of wind. He had not long been there before a breeze sprung up, and the sails being suddenly put in motion caught his body and flung it into the air. Alarmed at his prolonged absence, his wife after some hours, came to seek him, and found to her dismay his lifeless body extended on the ground. It presented a fearful spectacle, being pierced in many places with the sharp points of the mill sails, and bruised and shattered with the violence of his fall.
On the Lord’s day we must in a particular manner practise works of Christian love and mercy. Although our charity should not be confined to one day only, St. Chrysostom expressly says: “Sunday is especially suitable for alms-giving.” Employ Sundays in putting into practice the seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Feed a poor person or send something from your table to the sick that they also may feel happy; visit the sick and assist them with alms if they are poor.
In a large Ohio town there lived a little cripple by the name of Jimmy, whom everybody knew. When the Jesuit Fathers had opened a mission in one of the neighboring parishes, his good mother took him to church one evening. From that night on the little cripple could be seen in the front seat every night during the mission; he liked the bright music and the flickering lights. But there was more than that.
One night something happened that he did not expect. It happened so silently that Jimmy was the most surprised boy in the world after he knew about it. What do you think it was? Let me tell you: The dear Lord Jesus, hidden in the tabernacle, sent a dart of His love into Jimmy’s heart, which made Jimmy a firm friend of Jesus and a staunch Christian.
You know that when a boy loves Jesus and calls himself a Catholic, there are some things he used to do which he does not want to do again. The following Sunday there was a baseball game in town, and of course Jimmy had planned to go. This planning he did before the mission. Sunday came and great crowds went to the ball grounds. In the evening the street cars were crowded with men and women coming from the game. They were talking and laughing noisily, as if they had forgotten all about it being God’s holy day. At one of the corners Jimmy got on the car, whereupon the conductor, who knew him, called out to him: “Eh! Jimmy, what was the score?” In his usual bright and happy manner, Jimmy replied: “Five to two, but I wasn’t there. You know that I am a good Catholic now.” After that the men did not talk quite so loud, nor the women laugh so much, and one or two heard the conductor, when he took Jimmy’s nickel, say to him: “Stick to it, Jimmy, and you will be better for it!” What a sermon Jimmy preached that afternoon in the streetcar, in that big city of Columbus, Ohio. I wish I could preach like that. It puts some of us men to shame when a little lad is not ashamed to tell a crowded street-car that he is a Catholic, and that he would not miss church on the Lord’s day.
St. Chrysostom calls Sunday the Day of Bread. The reason of it is this: In the first centuries of the Church it was the universal custom for the faithful to receive Holy Communion during Holy Mass on all Sundays. Would that all the faithful would do this now! A frequent reception of the holy sacraments would contribute materially to the sanctification of the Lord’s day and put a stop to many sins.
Let us resolve to go regularly to church on Sundays and holidays of obligation in the morning and afternoon; let us assist devoutly at Mass and hear the sermon. If we receive often on those days the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Eucharist, we shall assuredly make progress in the way of virtue.