Labor Day & The Theology Of Down Time


Labor Day is a much-needed chance to recharge the batteries and rediscover the Sabbath, CatholicMatchers say. But slowing down doesn’t come naturally to some busy Americans, points out Karen-133138, who lived in Europe for 12 years.

“Europeans take their vacations very seriously and don’t think twice about using all of it, unapologetically, and at all levels, from the secretary to senior vice presidents,” Karen says. “When I first started work in Europe I didn’t know what to do with all my vacation. I couldn’t imagine being away eight weeks! Who would do my work?

“After the first year I adapted and used all my vacation every year after that,” Karen continues. “It was wonderful! The beauty of it was that you could fit in several types of vacation every year. There was the beach vacation, the touring vacation, the ski vacation and the spiritual vacation. I did several pilgrimages to holy places and annually did 10-day Ignatian retreats at the most beautiful locations.”

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Deanna-558852 likes the sound of it – and seems to grasp the theology of down time. “I think that we have lost the notion of Sabbath,” she writes. “We lead such busy lives that we are generally trying to cram too much into the work week, which then overflows into the weekend, including Sunday. It behooves us to learn to slow down and not feel guilty when we say no or decide to not sign our kids up for the umpteenth activity or decide to not stay late at work to just get a little more done. We owe it to ourselves to take a time-out, especially on the Sabbath. Correction – we owe it to Christ, our Redeemer and Savior. He never seems to be too busy for us when we need Him.”


Sunday priorities

Mary-750769 is wise beyond her 25 years. “I try to remember that ‘day of rest and no work’ does not mean ‘time to goof off and play video games all day,’” she says. “I think it means, among other things, ‘day of especially not letting things get between me and God.’ So I will often do work on Sundays like cooking and cleaning, because that is one way I can serve my family, and I sure need to work hard at improving that relationship.”

Steve-718929 is focusing on family this Labor Day too, planning a holiday weekend that will be restorative, not exhausting. “Like most of my summer vacations, I like to keep Labor Day low key,” he says. “I enjoy the Michigan summers, so I do not travel much, except to go see my folks, who are only an hour away and live on Lake Huron.”

There is terrific insight in Steve’s approach: To live fully each day, enjoying the beauty of your surroundings, means you don’t need to have a crazy-busy, packed holiday. 

Tim-734178 gets it too. He’s planning to take his niece fishing this Labor Day, an opportunity to enjoy the rich blessings of family and nature, focusing on pleasure rather than productivity.  

This Labor Day, heed the advice of Father James Martin, who wrote in his 2010 bestseller The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything: “Saying no to some nonessentials and avoiding the constant rush that sometimes characterizes our lives (including my own) is a way of saying yes to a more balanced way of living.”

Here’s to blessed, balanced lives.



  1. Meesch-691047 September 3, 2012 Reply

    Amen to a day of rest!

  2. Ryan-698483 September 1, 2011 Reply

    How ironic. I work in a Catholic school and they always want me to do more more more. If I had their way I’d never have a day off!

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