A few years ago, Bro. John Malich gave me a t-shirt with a quotation from Downton Abbey: “What Is a Weekend?” On the show, this line garnered laughs because it was spoken by an aloof member of the aristocracy who had never needed to work. With no concept of a workweek, why would she have any familiarity with weekends? The joke packed a different punch for me because of how many weekends I actually spent working. Indeed, most teachers regularly spend at least some of their weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, I was frequently with young people on retreats or service projects. Did I have weekends? Well, I had days that I wasn’t teaching that would sometimes end up being still more demanding than those in my official workweek. A number of people reading this blog can surely relate.
In my current position as vocation minister for the Marist Brothers, I have generally had to take days off where I could get them. Some months, that might mean a single Tuesday. On any day of the week I could be involved with some kind of program, busy with phone calls, in transit to my next destination, you name it.
And then quarantine hit, and I entered the same time warp as the rest of us. What day is it? What week? Month? Year?
The funny thing is though that as much as time seems to blend together, in some ways I have a stronger sense of weekend than I have in a long time.
There is no longer any difference between the work that I do inside or outside of the house, and so there is no work that I relegate to time outside of my office. With rare exception, right now anything I still have to do for my work on the end of Friday won’t mind waiting until the beginning of Monday. Working in the evenings is unavoidable with my job, because I often need to make phone appointments around the schedules of others with stable day jobs, some of whom may even reside in different time zones. But I seldom find it necessary to schedule for Saturday or Sunday.
When I first named this blog series Thank God It’s Saturday, I was riffing off the expression “Thank God It’s Friday”, while also playing up the importance of Saturday for Marial devotion. I did have mixed feelings though about playing into the mentality of living for the weekend. After all, shouldn’t we be living both for the present moment and also for eternity? Live each day for itself in such a way that it matters, right? Don’t groan through five to only enliven two.
Now though, the weekend does feel special in a different way, especially given how crushingly similar one day is to the next overall. A large part of this is attributable to my community of brothers.
Monday through Friday, we wake up at a reasonable morning hour so we can pray together to start the day. Saturday, we turn off the alarm, sleep as late as we need, and discover whether we had rest to catch up on. We have dedicated Saturday evenings during this time to specially themed dinner parties (entirely among ourselves, of course) that may sound ridiculous but that bring a special diversion to the house. On Sunday we sleep in again but ensure that we wake up in time for a late morning communion service before holding a house meeting to check in with each other and review anything that needs to happen around the house during the following week. Monday is back to the normal routine of regular prayer, work, household tasks, and the stuff of everyday life.
The Jewish tradition understands something that many of us have forgotten. The Sabbath is a holy day, but not entirely for its own sake—instead, the Sabbath is the day that blesses all the other days. After all, in the first biblical creation story, God recognized the goodness of each day’s creative activity but that goodness was powerfully affirmed by the ability to rest on the seventh day. There was nothing left to improve on—at least until the following week.
Back when I studied in Germany, it was still common in most cities for the great majority of stores to be closed on Sunday, and worksites would be deserted. Instead of bemoaning the inconvenience, the locals cherished the relaxed atmosphere of a day set apart for leisure. The quarantine necessitated by this coronavirus has given many of us ample opportunity time to think. What will this time teach us that could change the way we re-enter our lives when this is over? I hope that I can remember a renewed desire for Sabbath.
Elton John’s reasons for valuing Saturday are slightly different than those I described above, but every now and then it is just nice to find an excuse to play a great song—hence this week’s ‘ear candy’. And look at the crowd at that live performance! The ‘brain food’ offers some thoughts on our perception of time during quarantine and how to stay mentally healthy. Enjoy!
Ear Candy: “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” by Elton John
Brain Food: “The Psychology Behind Why We Lose Track of Time in Quarantine” by Kelsey Borresen
Come back next Saturday for a new post!