Monday, November 20, 2017

Q&A: What is lawful or unlawful to do on Sundays; Keeping the Sabbath holy; What servile works or works for payment can be performed on Sundays?

Question: “Good night, Jerome.
I wanted guidance,
as mother and wife, how should I sanctify Sunday.
for a mother of the home, which is lawful or unlawful to do on Sunday,
because after the Vatican Council 2, he failed to teach everything in respect to salvation.
Thank you for your guidance.
God bless”

Answer: Hello!
As a mother and wife you can sanctify Sunday by doing fun things with your family. You could also go to mass if you have one available (that is, if you consider any Mass acceptable according to your current beliefs), or watch a pre-Vatican II mass on youtube – or some other mass you think is acceptable from various traditional organizations.

Everything is lawful to do on Sunday except servile work. So if you don't like to scruple, consider everything as lawful but servile work, such as laundering, cutting wood, cleaning, painting the house, buying stuff (necessity excluded) etc.

Some say that even cleaning etc. can be performed on a Sunday, provided it is performed as a recreation or for some necessity, such as cleaning a fish tank. I am not sure how to view it, though. I myself try to avoid doing anything with servile work (unless I do it for helping souls for the Love of God), or if I clean something, it is usually something small that does not take long time. One can do many various things on a Sunday, of course, even tiring things like playing football or jogging, but also picnicking, cooking, walking the dog etc., and even working for pay, provided the work is necessary for the good of society, such as nursing, public transport (buss or train driver) and security and health (police officer, fireman, doctor etc.) Also, if you risk loosing your job by not working on Sundays (such as your boss won't accept you taking leave on Sundays), then it is also lawful to work on Sundays.

It is preferable, however, not to do anything on Sundays but spending most of the time with God in prayer and spiritual reading. Sunday should thus be used for God, your own soul, and to strengthen family ties.

If you want to learn more about what works or activities can be performed lawfully on Sundays, please consult the pre-Vatican II theologians and/or someone more learned on the topic. I will quote from one Moral Theology book:

Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities, by John A. McHugh O.P. and Charles J. Callan O.P.


Nihil Obstat

Imprimi Potest

Archbishop of New York
New York, May 24, 1958

2579. Servile Works.—The prohibitory part of the precept is concerned with servile works, that is, labor of a kind that tends to make one unfit for devotion or that shows disrespect for the sacredness of the day, even though the labor be done gratis, or for recreation, or out of devotion. Hence, the law forbids:

(a) works given to the service of the devil, that is, sins that deprive one of holiness, such as riotous recreations, gambling, drunkenness, reading improper matter, and attendance at evil movie performances. But these works are opposed to the end, not to the text, of the law; and hence the circumstance of time aggravates their malice but does not give them a new species (see 2314);

(b) works given to the service of the body (servile works properly so called) or to the service of external goods (forensic and commercial works). Servile works in the strict sense cause bodily fatigue and are taken up with material things, and hence they distract the mind from religious thoughts. Such are manual labors (e.g., plowing, digging, housecleaning) and mechanical or industrial labors (e.g., printing, building, plastering, shoemaking). Forensic and commercial labors (e.g., arguing in court, auctioneering) are also of a very worldly kind and unsuitable for the quiet and recollection of Sundays and holydays.

2580. The prohibitory part of the Sunday precept does not affect works which are no impediment to devotion and which cast no dishonor on the day. Such are:

(a) works devoted immediately to the service of God. The purpose of the law is to allow leisure for these works, and hence manifestly their performance is not forbidden. Such works are saying Mass, preaching, administering the Sacraments, singing in church, and visiting the poor and sick (John, vii. 23; Matt., xii. 5). But works that are only remotely related to divine worship (e.g., cleaning the church, painting the altar, repairing the vestments, decorating the shrines) should not be done on Sunday without necessity;

(b) works devoted to the service of the mind (liberal works). These works are of a more elevated kind, do not require great bodily exertion, and are not looked upon as unsuitable to the Sabbath. Such are intellectual works (e.g., teaching, reading, writing, studying), artistic works (e.g., playing the organ, singing, drawing, painting a picture, embroidering), and works of recreation (moderate sports or diversions such as baseball, tennis, and chess).

2581. Other Kinds of Works and Sunday Observance.—(a) Common works are those that stand between the liberal and the servile, since they are exercised equally by mind and body, such as walking, riding, hunting, and fishing that is not very laborious. These are lawful.

(b) Doubtful works are those that are now non-servile, now servile, according to the manner in which they are conducted, such as the work of painters, sculptors, typists, seamstresses, and photographers. Thus, it is a liberal work to paint a portrait, a servile work to paint the walls of a house. In settling the character of various kinds of work, one must be guided by the prudent opinion of one's locality, and in case of doubt and need must seek a dispensation. (For a history of the theology of servile works see Franz X. Pettirsch, S.J., "A Theology of Sunday Rest," Theology Digest, Vol. VI, no. 2, Spring 1958, pp. 114 ff.; for a survey of modern studies on the problem see Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America, 1957).

2582. Is it lawful without necessity to hire the servile work of non-Catholics on Sunday, if these persons are not thereby impeded from the natural duty of worshipping God and no scandal is given?

(a) If the non-Catholics are infidels and not bound by church laws, this is lawful. The same would be true of those who lack the use of reason (see 427 sqq.).

(b) If the non-Catholics are heretics, it is not lawful in the case given to make them work on Sunday.

2583. Obligation of First Precept.—The first precept of the Church obliges under pain of grave sin, because it determines a necessary act of religion (2148), and experience shows that where the Sabbath is neglected the social, spiritual and physical interests of man are seriously harmed (see Denzinger, n. 1202). There is always hope for Catholics who attend Mass, whereas those who miss Mass soon become Catholics only in name. But since neglect of worship may be only slightly disrespectful, and since the end of the precept may be substantially obtained without complete fulfillment, a transgression may be only venial by reason of lightness of matter.

(a) Preceptive Part.—Grave matter is a part of the Mass that is notable on account of dignity (i.e., the essential and integral parts of the Mass, for example, the Consecration and Communion), or on account of its duration (i.e., a third of the whole Mass, e.g., from the beginning to the Offertory inclusively, from the beginning to the Gospel and from the Communion to the end, from the Preface to the Consecration, from the Consecration to the Agnus Dei, etc.). Hence, he who is culpably absent or asleep during a notable part of the Mass sins gravely, but he who is absent or asleep during an inconsiderable part of the Mass (e.g., one who arrives just at the Offertory or who leaves after the Communion) sins venially, unless he is so disposed that he does not care how much he misses.

(b) Prohibitive Part.—Grave matter is labor that is notable on account of its quality (e.g., forensic proceedings even for a brief space on Sunday would be a serious distraction and scandal), or its quantity (e.g., two and a half hours given to very exhausting manual work, such as digging a ditch, three hours given to less arduous labor, such as sowing). He who commands ten laborers to work an hour each on Sunday coƶperates in ten venial sins (see 219), but he may be guilty of mortal sin on account of scandal.

2584. Excuses from Observance of First Precept.—These reasons may be reduced to two classes, namely, external reasons (i.e., a dispensation or a lawful custom) and internal reasons (i.e., one's own inability or necessity).

(a) External Reasons.—Dispensations may be given under certain conditions by local Ordinaries, by parish-priests, and by superiors of exempt clerical institutes (Canon 1245). Custom in certain places excuses from Mass for a month women who have just given birth to a child or who have lost their husband by death, and also—from the Mass in which their banns are to be proclaimed—those women who are about to marry. Custom further permits necessary labors, such as cooking, ordinary housecleaning, barbering, the work of railroad and garage men, etc.

(b) Internal Reasons.—Impossibility or serious inconvenience excuses from hearing Mass (e.g., those who have to walk an hour's journey to church or ride a two hours' journey, regarding which, in terms of distance travelled, it has been suggested that the figures should be more than three miles each way if one must walk, more than thirty miles if a car is available and the roads are good; those who will suffer great detriment to health, honor, fortune, etc., if they go; those who are kept away by duties of charity or employment or office that cannot be omitted). Necessity or duty to others permits one to work on Sunday at least to some extent (e.g., those who must labor on a Sunday in order to live, or to keep out of serious trouble, or to perform services or works of charity that cannot easily be done at another time). To avoid self-deception the faithful should consult their pastor or other prudent person if there is doubt about the sufficiency of the excuse.

2585. Though the Church does not impose excessive Sabbatarianism, neither does she admit laxity in the important matter of the Lord's Day.

(a) Hence, not every reason excuses from the church precept. Thus, those are guilty who unnecessarily place themselves in the impossibility of observing the law (e.g., by moving to a place where there is no church, by taking a position that requires work all Sunday morning, by starting on a vacation or auto trip to a churchless region), or whose excuses are frivolous (e.g., those who stay away from Mass because they dislike the priest, or who work on Sunday merely to keep busy).

(b) Reasons that excuse from part of the ecclesiastical precept do not excuse from all of it. Thus, those who are unable to hear Mass are not thereby justified in doing servile work, those who can hear the essential part of Mass (Consecration and Communion), but not the other parts, should hear the essential part; those who can hear Mass only on one Sunday a year are not excused on that Sunday.

(c) Reasons that excuse from the ecclesiastical precept do not excuse from the divine precept (see 2575) of worshipping God. Hence, those who are really obliged to work every Sunday should sanctify the Lord's Day by whatever private prayer or devotion they can substitute. Some authors very rightly believe that those who can never go to Mass on Sunday are held by divine law to hear Mass on weekdays three or four times a year at least, when this is possible (see 2148, 2180).



Since many people who are reading this have not been taught these concepts by modernist heretics, we must point out a few other things in this regard: servile works are forbidden on Sundays [and Holy Days]; people should not do laundry on Sundays; people should not do yard work (such as mowing the lawn, etc.) on Sundays; people should not shop food on Sundays unless they are starving etc... Exceptions to this would be work that absolutely must be done. For example, making a fire in your home so that you can be warm and survive is works that are completely acceptable. If you are able to make your food for the whole family before the Sunday, you must [or should] do so. One should not spend the Sunday on making food for the family which may take several hours of the day. You may of course (if you don't have any prepared food) take time to make something small for you or the family which does not require much of your time or take some food that you already have and warm it up. You cannot cut wood on Sundays and you must restrict yourself to only do things that are absolutely necessary for survival. If you must shovel out your driveway after a heavy snowfall, so that you can get to work, then you could do so on a Sunday. This, of course, implies some preplanning, but no one should refuse to obey the divine commandments since this action will undoubtedly lead to eternal damnation. An obedient person will see the beauty of God forcing man to rest from physical works.

To do unnecessary works on Sundays [and Holy Days] is completely unacceptable unless you starve and don't have the means necessary to support your family. In the richer countries, even going so far as begging or receiving social welfare checks every month is far better than to do unnecessary work on Sundays, since this not only damns yourself, but also damns your employer (unless ignorance excuse him). Your employer will in fact be punished for every single person he has allowed or forced (by threatening with layoffs) to work on Sundays. That can be thousands and thousands of people attacking one man for all eternity! What a horror!

People should of course also try to arrange with their employers that they don't have to work on Sundays [and Holy Days]. Likewise, other work that should or must be done on Sundays, due to one's work, occupation or state (such as tending the sick), can be done. If you have exhausted all the options for not working on Sundays or for receiving an income, for example: looking for another job or moving to another place, or any other lawful means of receiving an income, (like receiving social welfare checks for the support of the necessities for you or your family, as long as this do not imply that you have to compromise your faith or safety in any way,) then you are not obligated to stay away from work and can safely work on Sundays [and Holy Days] as long as it is your last option. Below are some examples of acceptable reasons of why you can work on Sundays.

For example, if you cannot continue home-schooling your children, this would be an acceptable reason with continuing to work on Sundays. Another example would be if you had to move to a bad neighbourhood with much drugs, violence or lasciviousness that would influence you or your family in a sinful way, or if by quitting your work, you may be forced to take another work that is sinful or immoral. This would be another reason to continue to work on Sundays until you have found another work where you are not forced to work on Sundays or forced to put your family's spiritual wellbeing in jeopardy.

This goes to say if the work you do is acceptable before God. If you sin against God or your neighbour by the specific work you do, such as selling, packing or stocking contraception, porn, bad newspapers with immodest images or stories about sex or other sins etc., then you cannot go to that work even if you starve or don't have the means to support yourself or your family. In such cases you have to put your entire trust in God. You cannot be the cause of your brothers mortal sins without yourself being guilty of mortal sin!

Therefore I say to you: Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. The life is more than the meat: and the body is more than the raiment... seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice: and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Lk. 12:22-24, 27-28, 31)

However, in the poorer countries where there is no chance of getting social welfare or income in any other way, it is totally acceptable to work on Sundays as long as the person must do it in order to survive. Many people do not operate under these conditions but work on Sundays in order to have more money than they need to survive. Yes, many people have the means necessary to stay away from work on Sundays, but only go to work to receive more abundance in riches. This is a clear mortal sin! [Also consider that even poor people in Catholic countries before in time avoided working on Sundays, yet they survived and did not starve. Why is this? Answer: When people honor God and try to please Him, God will bless them in return and give them abundance! In contrast, when people disobey God by working on Sundays and Holy days without necessity, they will loose graces, commit sin and even make a loss in their temporal needs.]

The following example on this [of people working to receive more abundance in riches] can be seen clearer from St. Bridget's revelations, in the book rightly entitled the Book of Questions. It is composed of questions which Our Lord and Judge give wonderful answers to:

“Third question. Again the monk appeared on his ladder as before saying: “Why should I not exalt myself over others, seeing that I am rich?”
“Answer to the third question. The Judge answered: “As to why you must not take pride in riches, I answer: The riches of the world only belong to you insofar as you need them for food and clothing. The world was made for this: that man, having sustenance for his body, might through work and humility return to me, his God, whom he scorned in his disobedience and neglected in his pride. However, if you claim that the temporal goods belong to you, I assure you that you are in effect forcibly usurping for yourself all that you possess beyond your needs. All temporal goods ought to belong to the community and be equally accessible to the needy out of charity.
You usurp for your own superfluous possession things that should be given to others out of compassion. However, many people do own much more than others but in a rational way, and they distribute it in discreet fashion. Therefore, in order not to be accused more severely at the judgment because you received more than others, it is advisable for you not to put yourself ahead of others by acting haughtily and hoarding possessions. As pleasant as it is in the world to have more temporal goods than others and to have them in abundance, it will likewise be terrible and painful beyond measure at the judgment not to have administered in reasonable fashion even licitly held goods.”

“The third commandment is that thou have mind and remember that thou hallow and keep holy thy Sabbath day or Sunday. That is to say, that thou shalt do no work nor operation on the Sunday or holy day, but thou shalt rest from all worldly labour and intend to prayer, and to serve God thy maker, which rested the seventh day of the works that he made in the six days before, in which he made and ordained the world. This commandment accomplish he that keep to his power the peace of his conscience for to serve God more holily. Then this day that the Jews called Sabbath is as much to say as rest. This commandment may no man keep spiritually that is encumbered in his conscience with deadly sin, such a conscience can not be in rest nor in peace as long as he is in such a state. In the stead of the Sabbath day which was straightly kept in the old law, holy church hath established the Sunday in the new law. For our Lord arose from death to life on the Sunday, and therefore we ought to keep it holily, and be in rest from the works of the week before, and to cease of the work of sin, and to intend to do spiritual works, and to follow our Lord beseeching him of mercy and to thank him for his benefits, for they that break the Sunday and the other solemn feasts that be established to be hallowed in holy church, they sin deadly, for they do directly against the commandment of God aforesaid and holy church, but if it be for some necessity that holy church admitteth and granteth. But they sin much more then, that employ the Sunday and the feasts in sins, in lechery, in going to taverns in the service time, in gluttony and drinking drunk, and in other sins, outrages against God. For alas for sorrow I trow there is more sin committed on the Sunday and holy days and feasts than in the other work days. For then be they drunk, fight and slay, and be not occupied virtuously in God’s service as they ought to do. And as God command us to remember and have in mind to keep and hallow the holy day, they that so do sin deadly and observe and keep not this third commandment.” (From the Golden legend or the Lives of the Saints, volume 1, page 122-123)

From the above quote can be learned that man should not do the things on a Sunday that he would do on the other days. The Sunday is intended for God to be kept in holiness. Thus, if the only difference for you on Sundays is that you keep away from servile work, but do not give any of your time to God and instead watch the television etc., what profit is there for you? (It is nothing wrong with walking the dog on a Sunday, or to have sporting activities with friends and family.)

God commanded at least one day off for man so that man could rest from the world and use it for his and his family's spiritual wellbeing, in praying, reading, picnicking and doing other good works for the soul of oneself and the family. You should thus spend the Sunday in abstaining from your own will, such as watching the tv, playing video games, listening to music or the radio, etc., and instead strive to know God in solitude, prayer and meditation.

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