What can we do on sundays


i have this doubt that i dont seem to have a good answer.

can we buy stuff? i mean if i go to walmart or another store i know they have to work all the day, so am i somehow supporting them to not respect the Lord’s day? or going to the store, that opens all day like any other day.

i really like going shopping or at least to look around, but i dont want to make others to sin, since for them it would be just work.


I’ve been wondering this also, and I can’t seem to get a good answer. you will get answers all over the board on this one


Here’s a thread from three weeks ago that answers this question: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=898735

Good answer: yes, feel free to buy stuff on Sundays.
Better answer: try to buy in advance or put off purchase til later if possible, but don’t overly worry about it.

Angell1, you participated in that thread, perhaps you can restate your question that apparently went unanswered.


well, in the past, the church did condemn public buying and selling on sundays and work in general.

now it seems not to.

how is it a sin at one point and time and not now?


The Sabbath and now the Lord’s Day have always been days of rest. However, our understanding of what constitutes too much work can and has changed.


how does opening a store constitute too much work at one point though and not now?


Whatever Peter binds, is bound. Whatever Peter looses, is loosed. The obligation to go to attend church on Sunday did not exist before the Church made a law on the topic. The obligation to fast has changed, as has what counts as abstinence, as has how to make a good confession (etc.). The point is that Canon Law changed on this, making such revered documents as the Baltimore Catechism outdated on this topic (its general thrust is still good, of course).

The new applicable canon from the 1983 Code of Canon Law is Canon 1247.

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 business concerns 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.

The prior Code from 1917 is in Latin, but one translation reads: “All servile, judicial and commercial work is forbidden on Sundays and holy days, but cultural and ordinary work is allowed.” Apparently, commentary noted that “It says that servile work lasting more than two hours is considered grievously sinful. If light in character rather than servile, three hours. Causes which excuse: personal need or another’s, legitimate dispensation, legitimate custom.”

I am far from a canon law novice, much less an expert, but I recall that the change from a negative precept to a positive one changes the burden to one that is simultaneously harder and easier. It binds more broadly but more loosely. It allows for a subjective understanding which is appropriate since each person’s circumstances are unique.


ah, ok, thank you, I did not have a complete picture of the 1917 canon. it clearly did not forbid all kind of work even then


When I was a boy in the 1950’s people couldn’t go shopping much on Sundays because all stores except grocery and drug stores were closed. They began staying open sometime in the 1960’s.


We are not permitted to do any commerce on Sundays, with the exception of going out to eat on Sundays out of necessity. I would not even go window shopping on Sundays if I were you, unless you were window shopping from outside of a store looking in. God bless you.


“Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and business concerns 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.”

Nothing there in the canon says you cannot go shopping. It would have been easy enough to have included that. Plus, your use of extreme language (“any commerce”) is farcical. “Sorry, I can’t go out and buy you that first aid to treat your emergency - it’s Sunday, after all!” Also, “Buying that cleaner for your Sunday spill is not permitted, you must let the insects come or your floor get ruined.”

Besides these somewhat urgent/emergency examples, and common-sense interpretation of the canon, you have to look at causality. Shopping itself is relaxing for many people. As far as the worker goes, that worker is not likely Catholic bound by Canon Law (and even if he is, there are some applicable exceptions), so that non-Catholic worker working for a non-Catholic owner would likely be there anyways. If that’s the case, your shopping did not “hinder” the other from any worship. Causality.

If you have some on-target sources that explain the new canon, I’d love to hear them, as my guess is that you are making this up.


I am not making anything up. What I have said is the Church’s traditional teaching. We are not supposed to do servile work or business/shopping on Sundays, except a meal at a restaurant is permitted as well as the purchase of needed medicine or milk for a baby. If we need to take a bus/train or go to the hospital or do necessary business like this on a Sunday, this sort of business is of course not prohibited. I’m sorry, but I can not answer any more of your posts because you think I am being farcical, when I am being true. You’ll have to speak with a learned traditional priest if you wish to know exactly in which document the Church says that we are not permitted to do commerce on Sundays. God bless you.


You were the one using overbroad language. Your appeal to church tradition here is somewhat misplaced, as there has been a change in canon law. You gave absolutist language saying that people can’t do Sunday shopping, you even suggested window shopping (a relaxing occupation for many) was malum prohibitum. Again, it sounds like you are making this up. I suggest you speak with a canon lawyer. I can speak with people who’ve made farcical posts, just be reasonable and cite good authority.


If the understanding of “keep holy the Lord’s day” means spend one hour in church and then do whatever YOU want to do, regardless if it has anything to do with God, nothing will change your mind. For centuries Sundays were holy days, days spent worshipping God, resting (other than necessary work such as milking the cows or caring for someone ill) and spending time with family, reading, and such. It was not just Catholics who did not work on Sundays, it was nearly all people. But now our society has become “me first” and money making is more important than God or just doing what is honorable, responsible, and polite. So because our society has become godless, it is now alright for Catholics to whittle God’s laws down to a minimum, too? If a person is “allowed” to do whatever he wants to do after his one hour at Mass, how is that keeping the Lord’s day holy? How does that make Sunday a special day? Is it necessary?


I’m not sure whom or what you’re addressing. It also sounds like your reading things into what others have said and are constructing a strawman. Can you please clarify?

Since it’s not that way right now, and a return to Christendom seems far off in most places on this planet, I’m not sure how this past reflection is too relevant to us today. I’m not sure how the OP’s question regarding shopping is exclusive with resting or family time. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I’m all for you calling in America’s executives and lecturing them about the benefits of closing down on Sundays, yet, if we can’t cause a difference in someone else’s work habits, then there is no problem in performing a separate analysis of whether to avail ourselves of their services. Some small owners may even need to be in business on Sundays to keep afloat. Some workers may not have much choice but to do Sunday shopping. Censoring any activity less than the ideal may be unfair of you.

This helps the OP answer his titular question of “should”, but please don’t forget his other main question of “can.” No need to crucify him over this by suggesting his Sunday Walmart shopping is whittling God’s law to a minimum.

If it’s a choice between leisure shopping or watching NFL games, what’s the moral difference? Maybe you should start a new thread on how to maximize our Sundays - it’s a very good question, probably better than the one in this thread, but not really helpful to the OP’s main question.


I myself do not view any unnecessary television programs on Sundays. If we watch an NFL game on the Sabbath we are contributing to someone’s else’s mortal sin. The 3rd commandment has not changed. If we work on the Sabbath to benefit our own pocketbook then we are committing a mortal sin. And as Father Robert Altier mentions in his Examination of Conscience booklet, if we are an accomplice to another’s mortal sin then we are committing a mortal sin against ourselves. So part of it is about protecting our own soul. Father does also mention that some work is necessary, such as healthcare providers.

Also, when our Blessed Mother appeared to children at La Salette, France in 1846 she cried about how the adults in the village were breaking the 3rd commandment by working in the fields on Sunday’s. She told them that this greatly offended Jesus because they were being disobedient to His commandment.

“If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” ~John 14:15


Whose mortal sin? Why is it mortal? Perhaps you mean “grave sin” or are you assuming all NFL players have full will and knowledge? Why would playing a game on a day of rest be a grave sin? How does watching contribute to their alleged sin? Does watching college football on Saturday encourage them to become professional Sunday athletes? Do the team priests that say Mass for them contribute to their mortal sin? Have you written a letter to those priests’ bishops, and if not, have you contributed to their mortal sin in your neglect? What is the moral difference between these “contributions”? If I am playing football on a Sunday and someone pays me money for this act I would have done anyways am I sinning? Do you know to what extent that applies to these players? Do the football players not fall into the necessary work exception since they may not have other means to put food on their families’ tables?

You seem to go way too far in your analysis here.

The NFL viewer is an accomplice to another’s [mortal? see above] sin? Where did you conduct that analysis? Are you saying that the viewer formally cooperates with a grave Sabbath violation?

newadvent.org/cathen/01100a.htm is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “accomplice.” It is not written with the exactitude I would like, but is a good general entry on the topic. It lists several factors which mitigate against a finding of complicity (unless the cooperation is material). Can you please examine this?

She spoke during the time and place of Christendom, not modern secular society. An analogy of our time and place to that one is incomplete at best. Furthermore, the applicable canons were different.

Look, it sounds like you are a very holy person, and I commend your efforts on keeping God first and the Holy Day sacred. But your comments seem, if not wrong, then certainly over the top regarding the original question of is this a sin. As I said before in my last post:

[quote=bbentrup]Maybe you should start a new thread on how to maximize our Sundays - it’s a very good question, probably better than the one in this thread, but not really helpful to the OP’s main question.


What does the Nazorean say about what we can do? What does He say about healing on the Sabbath… or getting that donkey out of the ditch? It might help us to know.


It all depends on whether you follow the Traditional Teachings of the Church, or the not-so-defined teachings of Vatican II. If you want to follow the Traditional Teachings, then really you should not buy anything that is not necessary. For example, in the 1962 Missal published by Baronius Press Ltd, it states in its “Devotions for Confession” in the section regarding Examination of Conscience that, and I quote: “Have you kept holy the Lord’s Day, and all other days commanded to be kept holy? Bought or sold things, not of necessity, on that day? Done or commanded some servile work not of necessity? Missed Mass or been wilfully distracted at Mass? Talked, gazed or laughed in Church? Profaned the day by dancing, drinking, gambling, etc?”

Going out clothes shopping on a Sunday when you have plenty of clothes IS a sin! If you had a family day on Sunday, and you forgot to buy the chicken, I suppose that wouldn’t be a sin, since Sundays are about family.

Also, Sundays are about God, so try to do things which please God and not yourself. Read the Bible more, say another Rosary, burn candles or incense, chant the Divine Office (in Latin if you have it), meditate on a verse from Sacred Scripture etc. You could also tidy your house. Even as God ordered the Universe, so you can order the chaos in your house to reflect the order of creation. This is what I do. I like to tidy and clean on Sundays, offering my work as an act of adoration to the Most Blessed Trinity. Think about what would please the Father. Also, think of it as Father’s Day! When Father’s Day comes around, you go and give gifts to your father, and spend time with him. Well, is not your Father in Heaven more deserving of your time and love?! It can be hard to fulfil your obligations during the working week, so try to make up for it on Sundays.

On another note, the 1917 Code of Canon Law defined servile work as heavy work lasting more than 2 hours. The modern Code doesn’t define what it means by servile work. I tend to find that post-Vatican II documents don’t really define what it means, which causes the sorts of crises that are in the Church today. I tend to follow the more traditional practices of the Church, even if they seem to be “medieval”! But, it works for me!

If you are struggling between what to do, then pray. God will answer your prayer in good time. Say a Rosary every day for nine days to ask Our Lady to help you understand what God’s Will is for you. You could also read “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales. It is amazing! You could also pray to him, and ask him to help and guidance. And if God doesn’t seem to be answering you, then maybe He wants you to try out different things. I don’t think He will send you to Hell for trying! Find out what helps you to glorify God on His Holy Day.

Hope this helps. God bless.


The Church is the same Church; this is a horrible false dichotomy to suggest to people. The Canon Law has developed to more accurately portray the wisdom of the Church (I suspect to more accurately teach Christ’s command that the Sabbath was made for man, but it is what it is).

The Canon Law tells us to celebrate the joy that is Sunday: for the penitent’s state, that might mean relaxful shopping, which may also be for some a necessity based on their life circumstances.

These instructions are alright if read in the proper spirit, but have a great chance to confuse the uninitiated as well if read as rigid thou-shalt-nots. We have reams of threads on here that cite Church teaching that dancing, drinking, gambling, are not per se sins, when done on moderation. Sunday will not change the character of that activity from sinful or not. Talking or laughing in Church is not ideal but is not per se sinful either (disrespect of the Church and its penitents are sinful). Work borne out of a materialistic desire is bad; work done that is necessary or relaxing is fine. If you mean drinking a glass of wine on Sunday is sinful according to the strict letter of what you quote, please clarify. Else, don’t tend to cite something that others may easily take literally when to do so is not Church teaching.

It depends - is it done to celebrate the joy that is proper to Sunday?!

Mark 2:27 The Sabbath was made for Man. God wants us to please ourselves (not unwontonly). For example, Sundays are not to be a day of penance. Of course, we are a community so the best way to do this is to make sure all our neighbors can properly celebrate as well. That’s why visiting the sick and celebrating with them is a great activity this day.

These are some ideal activities, and very good to keep in mind (along with your final prayer regime suggestion which I did not quote here), but the OP’s question is more about what is sinful or not. You might want to start a new thread to compare notes as to what is ideal.

The modern code doesn’t use the word “servile” so it would make no sense to define it. The modern code prefers to command in the positive aspect (though it does use the phrase “abstain from work that prevents”), preferring to focus on the worship of God, the relaxation of mind and body, and the joy of the day. Very Catholic, and much more accessible to the modern mind.

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