The Sabbath factor

The Sabbath factor

A priest on his day-off was heading out of the parish office when a lady knocked to request for his advice.  The priest politely explained that it was his day-off.  The lady countered: “But the devil does not take a day-off?” The priest answered back: “If I don’t take a day-off, there would be another devil here.”  The reason for days-off,  annual retreats, study days and other vacations for priests is to avoid the emergence of other devils in our parishes.


Unlike at St Anthony’s, some parishes have the residence of priests away from the church.  The physical distance provides priests with the needed break from church work.  It is healthy for the body and the soul to know and experience the difference between a workplace and a home. The benefit of this difference is like the renewed strength from a night’s sleep after a long working day.  Given that our priests here reside in the same location as the church, the element of privacy of their quarters is important.


A decade, I did a four-month sabbatical leave and enrolled in the three-month Institute for Continuing Theological Education of the North American College in Rome.  This was a kind of response to the invitation of Jesus for his disciples to “come away to a deserted place all by themselves and rest a while.”  It is a recognition of the need to rest and renew, even for the priests and religious.   In the diocese, it is mandated that a yearlong-sabbatical be granted to priests every ten years. The word sabbatical comes from Sabbath, which is the first day of the week, which has to be kept holy by observing rest.   The theme of Sabbath reminds us of the importance of restoring in our busy lives the sacred rhythm of rest.  Helping one another think of the concept of Sabbath rest and our common need for renewal is a challenge worthy of our best efforts.  As we observe the Sabbath, which is Sunday for us, we remind ourselves of who we really are, of our purpose in life and our origin and ultimate destiny.


In his book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Wayne Muller writes, “The Sabbath rocks us and holds us until we remember who we are.”  In our culture where time has become a commodity and remembering who we are is sometimes a challenge, keeping the Sabbath may be more important than ever.  I have read of one Christian congregation which chose to celebrate a “Year of the Sabbath”, which became a congregational opportunity to change the rhythms of parish life, to slow down and to invite intentional renewal and reflection.  Hopefully, this pandemic has provided us a “forced sabbatical”, which provides us a time for rest, restoration and renewal.


As we approach the end of summer, we have to heed the invitation of Jesus to “come away to a deserted place all by themselves and rest a while.”   In the mind of Jesus, to rest is essential.  To renew our apostolic zeal requires that we go away to some deserted place by ourselves and rest a while.