This weekend, our homily was on the 10 Commandments. Back when I was a Protestant, I could rattle them off in order (along with all the books of the Bible, the disciples, the apostles, the plagues of Israel and most of the creepy bits from Revelation).
When I became a Catholic, there were all sorts of new things to learn: Mysteries of the Rosary, Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, Holy Days of Obligation, Popes, Saints, and a boatload of new prayers. But I could still name the Commandments in order when Father quizzed us at Mass.
Then, he asked us how well we keep the Commandments.
So far, I have done pretty well with 1, 4, 5 and 6 -- love one God, honor your parents, don't murder or commit adultery.
#2? I will admit one of my favorite curse words is "goddammit." It comes in handy in all sorts of situations: when spilling something, hearing the cat yak up a hairball on the carpet, forgetting an appointment or being pulled over for speeding (when late for that appointment). (Although after watching several episodes of season 1 of The Sopranos, I replaced "goddammit" with another favorite, the f-word, which I cannot bring myself to spell out.) But when one says "goddammit," is she really asking God to send His wrath down upon the situation? I don't think so -- it just feels so goddamn good to say it. But I am going to stop using it anyway. Now, or soon after.
#7 . I don't think of myself as a thief, but I have xeroxed music without permission from the publisher, downloaded songs on the Internet and I still have a book from the university library where I worked on my Master's degree 20 years ago (I checked -- it's been so long, it's off my record, but it's still not mine, is it? I think I was just channeling my mother.)
#8 is bearing false witness. I really try not to lie. Really. But I sometimes shave a few dollars off when I tell Clay how much something costs and my driver's license says I weigh 40 pounds less than I do. Does that make me a liar or just normal?
And coveting, #9 and #10. These are tricky. To covet is to want something some else has "to the point of distraction". I've read that even if you purchase something because someone else had one, that is coveting -- but isn't that just the American way? I need more and better stuff because my neighbor just got more and better stuff than I have? Envy keeps the wheels of American industry moving. I am guilty of this, as evidenced by my 4-bedroom house, Chrysler van and my pretty little pink I-Pod, but I am thankful that the older I get, the less I care about what others have. Maybe coveting is just the opposite of thankfulness.
But this weekend, Father focused on #3 -- keeping the Sabbath Day holy. He asked us to think about what we really do on Sunday. When I was growing up, Sunday was for church, dinner at one of the grandma's and not much else. Grocery stores weren't open, so you had to plan well for Sunday dinner. There were no meetings, games or practices. We cleaned on Saturday, and dirty laundry had to wait until Monday. One time I took some embroidery work to my Baptist grandma's -- she scolded me, and told me if I sewed on the Sabbath, I would have to pick the stitches out when I got to Heaven -- with my nose. (Of course, later I tried to do just that. If my grandma is right, it is a good thing Heaven is forever, because that's about how long it will take me to take out all the stitches I have made on Sundays.)
Since we lived on a farm, there were still chores that had to be done even if it was Sunday -- animals fed and watered, cows milked. And during planting and harvest season, my dad was in the fields on Sunday, even though many farmers around here weren't; "We'll rest when it rains," he would say. (My dad had a pretty unique relationship with God; I think he was much closer --and certainly more comfortable -- with God out on the tractor than he was in church. He often said there was no such thing as an "atheist farmer" -- he saw miracles in the seed, and knew how much faith was necessary to depend upon that seed to provide for your family.)
Today, my Sundays are too much like every other day of the week. For me, it's still a day for God and family, but it's also become my catch-up day for laundry, yard work or shopping. So I am going to take Father's advice and try to rest more on Sundays; I'll have to plan ahead to avoid going to the grocery and doing laundry Sunday night. (Father even said that parents should tell coaches that their kids won't participate in Sunday games or practices; I think he forgot that this is Southern Indiana and basketball season is rapidly approaching -- I heard a lot of snickering from the congregation when he made that suggestion.)
So here's to prayerful, quiet Sundays spent on the couch or porch with a good book and some knitting (which God knows is not work, but a pathway to peace).
(In keeping with today's theme, here is an episode of This American Life on the 10 Commandments, and an article about a man who kept every Bible law for an entire year -- and I think it's going to be tricky to keep #3!)