I want to discuss the precept, "rest from servile labor" and what that means

The Catholic Church has five very ancient precepts (rules) which are expected of all faithful Catholics. These are detailed in Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These rules are defined, by the Church, as the minimum by which a person may be considered a faithful Catholic:

The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor CCC 2041], emphasis mine

What I want to discuss is this:

The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days CCC 2042], emphasis mine.

The Catechism cites Canon 1247, which states:

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and aVairs [huh???] which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body CIC 1247]

The Catechism also cites the 1990 Code of Canons of Oriental Churches, cann. 881 § 1, § 2, § 4, which read:

Canon 881 - §1. The Christian faithful are bound by the obligation to participate on Sundays and feast days in the Divine Liturgy, or according to the prescriptions or legitimate customs of their own Church sui iuris, in the celebration of the divine praises.
§2. In order for the Christian faithful to fulfill this obligation more easily, the available time runs from the evening of the vigil until the end of the Sunday or feast day.
§4. The Christian faithful should abstain from those labors or business matters which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s day, or to the proper relaxation of mind and body.

(The CCC omits CCEO #881 §3: The Christian faithful are strongly recommended to receive the Divine Eucharist on these days and indeed more frequently, even daily.)

**OK, so here is what I want to discuss. If I attend Mass on Sunday at 10:00 am, what am I expected to NOT do the rest of the day? If I wash dishes, do I violate the first precept of the Church? If I water my lawn, do I violate the precept (even if I enjoy watering my lawn?)

If I mow my lawn (which I dislike doing), am I violating the precept? I could watch football instead (which I greatly prefer), so am I doing good by watching football instead of mowing the grass that needs mowing?

This precept has its roots in the Jewish observance of the Sabbath, and not working on the Sabbath. Jesus was accused of violating this rule. Some Jews take this very seriously. Lighting a lamp was considered by some Jews to be work, so they did not light lamps on the Sabbath. Some modern Jews carry this so far as to unscrew the light bulb in their refrigerators on Friday, because opening the fridge on Saturday (and turning on the internal light) would be considered work. Clearly, the Catholic Church does not carry this precept to this extreme. But exactly how extreme is this precept?

How does a faithful Catholic fulfill the first precept of the Church?**

I would say after attending 10 am Mass you can basically do whatever you want (apart from sinning of course). You may mow your lawn, play a sport with your family etc. I do not see any of these things impeding or hindering due worship to God.

I remember “blue laws” growing up when nothing was open on Sunday, but I’m not sure if that was just in Canada or the US too. I always took the servile labor rule to mean, for example, if gardening is an enjoyable hobby, it’s permissible. If it’s really a chore, then not okay.

From the Catechism:

CCC 2185 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

CCC 2186 Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.

My understanding is that one will refrain from work that servants might do that does not need to be done that day. So, one can cook and wash dishes, but not do laundry (unless it really can’t wait). One would not mow the lawn or dig a garden, but one could study for an exam. The former are servile, but the latter is not.

Maybe this is off topic, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate here:

Suppose that everyone in the country decided not to go out to lunch after Church. No going to the grocery store, no shopping trips for things the kids need for school on Monday, nothing.

There would be no television (except possibly taped programs), no sporting events, nothing.

With the possible exception of emergency personnel and hospital workers, everyone would just stay home.

14% of our economy would vanish. Oh, maybe a little less than that since we would all stock up on Saturday for the things we need on Sunday, but a big chunk of what we spend money on each week would simply not be spent at all.

How would those who rely on these Sunday jobs support themselves and their families?

We know that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays, and the company is doing quite well, but would the employees be better off if they could pick up a few more hours each week by working on Sundays?

The point of the Sabbath is a day of rest and worship of God. While it might not be wrong to mow your grass I personally would not. Not long ago people really avoided any sort of work except that which was absolutely necessary. Mowing a lawn would not be absolutely necessary. You can do that on other days. You would schedule for that. Additionally mowing the lawn creates noise and is a distraction to peace. Think of how peaceful Christmas Day is. There is really no reason every Sunday can’t be that way. And in fact when I was a child things were like that.

As for watching football that is restful for you but work for the athletes and others. I would think in general we should not seek out rest or entertainment that requires others to work.

Just as man was not made for the Sabbath man was not made for GDP. Even just fifty years ago stores were not open on Sundays. Somehow man survived and at that time we had less technology and comfort. If Sunday work disappeared it would either be shifted to other days of the week or wages would shift to reflect the change. Even with Sunday work there are still poor people and still underemployed people. In America we also pay some people who claim they can’t find work as it is with Sunday employment. So Sunday work has not seemed to solve the problem of poverty.

I’m never good at refuting Devil’s advocates, lol.
Whole countries DID used to operate like this, it was called “blue law” and if I recall first the U.S. ended theirs and then Canada followed --in the '80’s, at least (because I graduated in 81 and I remember this.)

Amish still follow this way of living and they are doing well and aren’t in debt as a rule. Hobby Lobby is closed on Sunday and they’re doing well. IMO, greed is the only reason companies do this, not “convenience” or to create jobs. In the Lasallette apparition, which is approved, Our Lady specifically complained that the people worked on Sunday instead of giving the day to God, and their crops would fail unless they changed. That’s all I’ve got:)

“…not seeking out rest or entertainment that requires others to work” would seem to impose on society an approach to “Sunday rest” that is closer to strict Orthodox Judaism than Christianity. First, it is not clear to me that playing a game for money is really “servile work.” As far as entertainment requiring others to work, barring that would mean no family visits to parks, no families going swimming - lifeguards, maintenance, and security personnel required. No going to the health club to counter the effects of sitting at a desk all week. Obviously no going to the movies. No college or pro sports at all, support staff required. No eating out, no taking Mom to dinner, no Communion breakfasts, no ice cream cones on a Sunday drive - dairy bar workers needed. In fact, maybe no driving at all on Sundays - gas station staff needed, even where one pumps their own gas, and safety services like fire and police have their own supplies anyway. If no driving, then the number of police on duty might be reduced. If one is luckily enough to own a boat, maybe can’t take the family out on Sunday, as marina staff and security needed. I really can’t see the Christian understanding of refreshment in mind and body in any of this; what it does seem like is 17th Century Massachusetts Bay Colony and Cotton Mather.

As I understand it, Orthodox Judaism considers even turning a light on as “work” forbidden on the Sabbath, as rabbinical interpretations equate that to kindling a fire, forbidden on the Sabbath. Lamps have therefore been developed that are always “on” but which have a sliding shield that blocks the light, as moving the shield isn’t considered akin to “work.” Is this the direction some would take Christianity?

WRT causing ithers to work on Sundays, since meal prep and cleaning up are permitted (being necessary) it’s not a problem to pay someone else to do that for you.

However, I notice that deliveries, etc, are still generally not made on Sundays… they would involve less-necessary labor.

I think we in the US have been ‘conditioned’ over the past 20 yrs or so to completely disregard the biblical laws about not working on sundays, companies want to stay open as often as possible, they dont care about their employees lives, they ONLY care about sales coming in…thats it!

Ive noticed the past couple years more and more places are staying open on Thanksgiving, and some on Christmas even, Subways were open on Christmas day here…and eventually most places will be open on these 2 days, wont be long either…If Im not mistaken, nearly ALL retail places would not open until early morning on the day after thanksgiving, but NOW, many are opting to open Thanksgiving night.

Whats totally ridiculous about the Christmas aspect of this…of course I recognize none of these companies actually care about the true reason for Christmas…they claim to have such Christmas spirit, they decorate their stores, put up lights, etc. but then they want to stay open longer, and some would probably prefer to be open on Christmas day…its like they want to appear like they are in the ‘Christmas spirit’ but everything they do totally goes against the real reason for the season…?? LOL

So the way things are on Christmas Day is un-Christian? Most people throughout history were not rich. They did not have cars to take on Sunday drives. They did not have boats in marinas. They did not have elaborate entertainment. They were just happy to have a day of rest from hard labor. It seems to me a lot of the relaxation people want to engage in on Sundays requires the poorest folks to work. It isn’t the rich guy with a boat manning the gas station or marina. Is that really Christian? We’re people not able to enjoy a Sabbath until modern America with its great wealth?

I agree this may sound like Puritanism. But what was the practice of the Church in the past?

When does that person get their Sabbath rest? When do they get to be with their family? If the rest of their family does not work on Sunday they miss out on being together. While it may be acceptable and at times necessary to pay others to prepare and serve you food it may be better to avoid that in as much as you can.

I would have to disagree with you on the mowing the lawn. Mowing my lawn, raking leaves, cleaning my flower beds and weeding my vegetable garden are all wonderful ways to get in touch with God through His creations, and can even be “prayer” for me.

Washing dishes- not so much!! :wink:

Ordinarily most would not put such in the restful category (but in the if necessary or do I have to?..)…it would be the exception I think to go jumping for joy as they head off to get the mower out…

Which I guess just goes to prove that not all things are “black & white”, no matter how much people want them to be. :shrug:

I think that mowing the lawn is a rather good example of what is to be avoided (unless necessary) that most would agree on.

As a Priest friend of mine commented one Sunday upon hearing a lawn mower - as we were driving through his town - “that better not be one of my parishioners - they know better!”.

Rare would be someone looking forward to the restful joy of mowing the lawn…

OK, I will concede that I am a bit weird…

but what about the Grandmother who slaves over a stove all day Sunday to have dinner with her family? Is that servile work? To me it would be, since I am a Chef by trade, but to Grandma, she is doing something loving for her family.

So, again, it’s not so “black & white”, is it? :shrug:

There is no need to get deep in the grass about this subject.

“Rest from servile labor” simply means to take a break once in awhile and don’t use “work” as an excuse to avoid God.

Not long after my wife converted to our Catholic faith, I was “resting and avoiding unnecessary servile work”… in my recliner, in front of a Sunday football game. My lovely wife walked in and told me that since she was now a Catholic…she had Visions. Today’s was the Angel Gabriel and our Blessed Mother. They informed her that household chores were not “servile labor” and it was God’s will that I get my butt out of the chair and mow the lawn.
How can you argue with a convert…??? They have visions.

All day? must be a really big dinner…
:wink:

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