July 17, 2009

The Green View / Patricia and Conrad Cortellini

Sabbath convergence

Patricia and Conrad CortelliniIn discussing the issues revolving around green and sustainability with our Catholic brothers and sisters, we have come to appreciate that there exists a sizable faction in the Church that views sustainability as a secular issue having little to do with our spiritual life.

Respectful of this position, we have given considerable thought to the matter and have come to the realization that, even as the spiritual and sustainability interest may differ, there appear many instances where the interest of the two converge. Among the most prominent of these instances is in keeping the Sabbath.

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to our Lord thy God, in it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:8-10), (p. 523).

Additionally, “Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life ” (CCC, #2186).

In essence, the same pressures of commercialism that have led to the degradation of our environment also have worked to dilute our keeping the Sabbath holy.

The Sunday Mass and Eucharist are important and obligatory, but are not the whole story of keeping the Sabbath holy. Sunday, the whole day, needs to be set apart from our secular life, and dedicated to rest and the life of the Spirit.

Another salient point: “Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day” (#2187)—no work and no activity that would cause others to work.

Now, is this really possible in our culture where commercial interests fill our waking day with 3,000 messages directed at each one of us that persuade, seduce, cajole and intimidate, using snappy phrases like “shop till you drop” and “rolling back prices” to get us to consume ever larger quantities of goods irrespective of our need? Would our spiritual life benefit from stepping out of the commercial maelstrom and the hectic activities of our everyday life one day out of seven?

Stop! Keeping the Sabbath provides an opportunity to stop—getting off our well-worn paths in order to reflect on our busy lives from a detached vantage point.

This “deliberate awareness” is an empowering practice—the first step in the living of an intentional Catholic life.

Once in this new space, we can foster peace and quiet within to make room for God’s voice to reach us for we are made aware through Elijah that God speaks in a “tiny whispering sound” (1 Kgs 19:12).

Freed from the demands of our busyness, we can devote our attention to the connections within family, friends and community, and rejuvenate the virtue of “caring.”

Coupled with a respite from schedules and deadlines, these acts of the Sabbath replenish our mind, body and spirits, and fortify us in the face of the inevitable Monday.

From the “green view,” keeping the Sabbath by Catholics around the world could reduce all forms of pollution by as much as 10 to 14 percent and conserve finite resources by the same amount.

Reinvesting time in family and community would illuminate that happiness is not dependent on our level of consumption, but on the level of caring we show to one another.

Taking the time to rest and do nothing except to experience each other and the world around us would bring us to the realization that this world of God’s creation is the most beautiful, most precious object in the known universe.

(Patricia and Conrad Cortellini are members of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.)

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