When does the Catholic Sabbath Start?

When does the Catholic Sabbath start? Some time back we were given the opportunity, if wanted, to fulfill Sunday Mass obligation on Saturday evening. If that’s permitted, then at what time on Saturday evening is servile work prohibited? Is it after sundown on Saturday? I’ve stopped buying / doing housework on Saturday evenings because of this confusion. Any thoughts?

There is no Catholic Sabbath, technically. The Sabbath as celebrated by the Jews is on Saturday, but the reason why Sunday Mass can be celebrated on Saturday night is because, liturgucally speaking, it’s Sunday. This is also the case for vigil Masses for solemnities.


The Catholics celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Under Canon Law, one’s Sunday obligation may be met on the prior evening (usually designated by the bishop as 4 or 5 PM).

That’s my point, I guess…If “liturgically” speaking, it’s Sunday, then don’t the ‘no servile work’ or ‘no purchasing’ rules apply, as well ?

I don’t think so, but I’m not certain. Still, either way, do take care to not be legalistic with the no servile labor and unnecessary purchasing.

I believe it is similar to the situation with fasting and/or abstinence, namely, a “day” is the 24 hour period from midnight to midnight. Therefore Saturday evening would NOT be the Lord’s Day.

Don’t Judaize, that’s a heresy. Christians don’t follow the Sabbath anymore. The spirit of the Sabbath has been moved to Sunday.

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Saturday is still the Sabbath. Sunday is the Lord’s Day which was made greater than the old Sabbath due to Christ having risen on this day. It is both the first and the 8th day…the day of the New Creation. The Old Covenant has been fulfilled with this.

In the Eastern Churches, we still slightly honor the old Sabbath in that when we fast during our Fasts, both Sat and Sun are relaxed and usually wine and or oil and fish are allowed.


I think we’re getting off track with semantics here. Ignore the use of terms of “Sabbath” and “Lord’s Day” and instead focus on Sunday Mass obligation. I think what the OP is asking (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is if there is a more concrete timeframe as to what does and does not satisfy obligation of going to Sunday mass.

So for example, I think it’s safe to say that an 8pm mass on Saturday would satisfy that obligation. Would a 4pm Saturday mass do the same? Is there a set hour? Is it instead about being after sundown on Saturday? And with Saturday evening satisfying that obligation does that mean that 24 hours later a Sunday evening mass would not satisfy that same obligation, or does it last longer than 24 hours?


I believe he is asking about whether or not we should refrain from servile work on Saturday night as opposed to our weekly obligation.

The answer if I recall to your question, however, is that it’s after Vespers, so typically at or after 4 pm the Church will have a designated Mass that serves the Sunday obligation.

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The Church allows Mass for Sunday to be observed starting at 4 pm Saturday, or First Vespers. But attending Mass on Sunday after 4 pm is fully licit. A 5pm or 8 pm Sunday Mass is licit because the Church, not the clock, determines how the Mass obligation is fulfilled.

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You are being overly scrupulous and legalistic about this.

Yes, I tend to be over-scrupulous…but the question has been on my mind, and I just wondered. Sorry…no theologian am I – I thought the word “Sabbath” was the Lord’s Day - be it Christian or Jewish worship…and that our ‘Sabbath’ was Sunday following Our Lord’s Resurrection. (Sorry - semantics aside - I just had a question…didn’t intend to start a controversy.) If I was wrong, thanks for correcting me, and God Bless you - for your input.

Canon Law puts the time at 4:00pm.

Canon Law only says “evening of the previous day” but doesn’t set a time. Wish it did, then we wouldn’t have this question asked repeatedly with one school saying “never before 4 p.m.!” and another school insisting, “anytime after noon!”

I fall in the group that firmly believe that if the Church had meant “any time after noon” she would have used the words post meridiem not vespere

Sorry, if I opened a can of worms. Not my intention. I meant to ask an innocent question.
Is it any wonder why my nickname here is ConservativeOne?
I understand pre-and post-Vatican II regulations. But life was a lot simpler when our day of worship (I just had to stop typing my intended word “Sabbath” for fear of angering any posters). Sunday was Sunday, and the Church (I believe) made excused exceptions for those who could nor attend Mass on Sundays).

My question was NOT aboiut Mass attendance. I wanted opinions on SERVILE work or BUYING in the late hours of Saturday. Since we are told Mass attendance in the late Saturday hours fulfill Sunday obligation, does that compare to Saturday evening being the beginning of Sunday, Must we also refrain from buying or working in the late Saturday hours. If Saturday EVENING Mass attendance is good for Sunday obligation, then do we consider Saturday EVENING the beginning of our “day of rest” / obligation / the day when no work / purchasing is encouraged by the Catholic Church? I hope this clarifies my question - by struggling to leave the word “Sabbath” out…not meaning to annoy - posters…just get the right answer. Thanks, and God & Our Lady bless you.

According to canon law: “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 affairs 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).

Also according to canon law, Sundays, Solemnities and Major feasts or Our Lord begin, and have always began, at Vespers, or Saturday evening at “sunset” (defining when “sunset” occurs in a liturgical sense became a problem as the Church spread northward, and has been clarified as being no earlier than 4:00 PM, regardless of when the sun actually sets). The Church has never defined Sundays as starting at midnight. Only days which are not Sundays, Solemnities or Major Feasts of Our Lord can begin at midnight.

So I would take it to mean that any “Sunday” obligation would include Saturday evening as well, and all day Sunday until midnight, so a 32 hour long stretch.

Where are you getting this idea from? The Church does not forbid all work on Sunday and has never forbidden purchases on Sunday.


I was raised / educated pre-Vatican II, which I’m sure some posters will recall. No servile work on Sunday was in the Baltimore Catechism; this included no unnecessary buying or work on Sundays. I try to observe that still. Therefore, while I know Holy Mother the Church has okay’d Sunday Mass obligation on Saturday evenings, it’s like the eve of Sunday; so, I wondered if the servile work issue also came into play or if it was strictly Mass attendance.

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