Working on a Sunday

I have read what the Code of Canon Law and Catechism of the Catholic Church says about work on Sunday (below).

Code of Canon Law Chapter 1 (1247) Sacred Times

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 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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

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.

I would say these are quite clear to me. What I am not full clear on is the definition of work. Is it whatever you do to make a living, that makes you money, or is any physical work not allowed either?

I remember hearing that it is frowned upon for somebody to be doing some physical work around the house on Sundays (e.g. painting the garden fence etc.) but for instance, it doesn’t seem frowned upon to wash the dishes after dinner, and that could also be considered work. How about exercising? Going to the gym. Would those be considered physical work on a Sunday that should be avoided.

I work on Sundays. I am a medical technologist, and I have worked in a hospital in my city for over 30 years. I work at least one weekend a month, and with the shortage of personnel and the increased work load due to COVID-19, I have been working two weekends a month.

God doesn’t heal everyone on Sundays so that the hospital can close down. If I didn’t work, people would suffer and perhaps die.

There are many essential jobs that require Sunday work.


In ideal, what the society should have is sunday as a day of non working. Essential social service are continued, such as emergency services in hospital, medical rescue, help and care to people in need such as hospitalized, old people, disabled people and children who are under child protections services maintained.

But schools, shops, commercial services should be closed.

It’s possible for countries who have christian backgroud.
It’s more or less what we have in France. With more laxed interpretation. Some hobbies and culture are accessible such as museums and amusement parks. Some shops are opened.
It goes worst with recent legislations, but sunday break have been defended on the political level for both left labors unions and the catholic Church for several decades.

We are generally not allowed by local orders to make any work in our garden or home that is noisy such as cutting our grass on sunday because it would prevent neighboors to enjoy their sunday break. Anyway the building craftmen who are making work in our home would not work on sunday.

It is topic of interpretation.
I would answer that yes, washing dishes on sunday is a house chore that is work, but even if we can avoid it, it is not superficial. It is important to make dishes regularly for ease and hygiene. I will definitely make dishes on sunday without second thoughts if I have the time.

Equally I will not have second thoughts to homeschool our child on sunday afternoon. Given that the morning is filled with religious duties. My husband think differently and believe that I should not do that. I understand that I would better to make religious work or let the child play.

For painting a fence, definitely my husband would do it on sunday. We are influenced by the fact that it is a quiet work that is allowed on secular ground. I didn’t think of that before your thread.

For exercice? depend on if it make others people work.
No problem for me to make a footing or to do gym on the house.
definititely no for going to a gym lesson.
But anyway the clubs don’t usually offered lessons on sundays.

But it happens that we go to museums on sunday.

For personal point of view I have avoid and would avoid strongly any professional work that requiere to work on sunday.

Thanks for your reply but that wasn’t my question. My question is on the definition of work.

What do you mean by ‘not allowed by local orders’?

Thanks for your responses @Anicette. I am assuming these are your interpretations of what we should and shouldn’t do? I was wondering if there is any precise Church teaching on this, or if some of it (like washing dishes or painting a fence) is simply up to our discretion.

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With all due respect, we must have had something like a dozen threads on here in the recent past about Sunday work, which you as an experienced poster could easily look up and read.

I’m not sure why we need another one, especially when it’s not coming from someone who is new to Catholicism or new to the forum. It’s likely to get the same responses as the last 10 threads.

Here is the search result:

Whether people “frown upon” doing some necessary house chores on Sunday, or shopping on Sunday, especially when these things are often family activities, is a matter of their own personal opinion, not some kind of Church teaching or custom.
As for personal exercising, I fail to see how that’s “work” at all, much less anything to be concerned about.

Jesus always took a common-sense approach to the Sabbath. It might be good if more people followed his example instead of seemingly wondering whether we’re allowed to do anything on Sunday besides go to Mass, pray, and sit in our armchair.


With due respect, a lot of your responses to topics often seem to be to complain about them. You are free not to reply to a topic if you think it’s unnecessary or uninteresting. That’s what I do.

As for the rest of your reply, thanks, I appreciate it.

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Three things to keep in mind:

That simply means that one is obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Unless one’s job or employer cannot (or will not) make accommodation for this, it means that one must arrange one’s work schedule around Mass attendance. Mass must be the first priority on a Sunday and holy day and everything else should fit around it.

Note the bolded word. If your work (whether job or household chores and errands) prevents you from worshipping God; renders your Sunday to be “just another day” and nothing special; keeps you from relaxing or performing works of charity, then it is to be avoided. HOWEVER… if your job allows days off during the week on which you can relax and do works of mercy, then you only have to worry about making sure that you keep HOLY the Lord’s day… and it would be good to remember that anything you do is a prayer if you do it for God (this includes going to your paying job and keeping a joyful attitude, or doing the laundry.)

“Family needs” include being able to pay your bills and buy groceries. If your job requires you to work Sundays, and you get paid for it, as long as you keep your Sunday holy, it is a family need. Your family needs food, clean clothes, a clean and safe environment in which to live. If Sunday is the only day you can grocery shop, clean house and yard, and do laundry, then it is a family need (again, so long as you do not ignore the obligation to attend Mass and keep Sunday holy.)

As far as going to the gym, exercise is good for the body and many people enjoy it. We are allowed to do things we enjoy, whether it’s working out, going for a hike, working in your garden (some people get a lot of joy and relaxation from gardening) or sitting at home watching TV… as long as we remember that our first priority on Sunday is to worship God.

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I have had the opposite impression from The Bear–helpful, optimistic and most supportive.

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I mean municipal decrees.

Yes, it is my interpretations. I know that some are wrong, such as schoolwork on sundays, if we can avoid it. Or to be late at mass.

Sunday is for religious life, family, visiting family members, old people, caring for people in need, joy and rest.

I don’t think the Church have established a list of what we can and what we can’t do such as domestic chores or small DIY (without any professional help). She don’t procede like that generally. I find nothing on the vatican website (or don’t know how to make the search).

Apart from the CCC that you know, Pope Francis have speak several times on sunday rest. I may suggest to watch the catechisis of september 5, 2018.
He warns us against the entertainment industry. He said that men have never had so mich rest but never such emptiness. He said that rest is to contemplation and make peace with (our?) life.

It is not only up to person opinion. And Christian customs matters.

I realize that europeans from Catholics countries have a millenial experience on sunday rest. We are also often from less individualistic more homogenous population wich help a lot. It is an advantage for us and I suggest to others to look for inspiration.

Because what the Church advocate is what have been lived for centuries or what is more less lived today when it is possible in respectfull societies.

She also understand that some catholics live in societies that have no christian grounds or are inscreasingly secular, that’s why She is moderate in her teachings.

CCC 2187 and 2194, 2195, it is written that we should avoid without necessity to impose to others what would prevent him to keep the Lord’s Day (sorry if my traduction is my own).
She also warns us against excess of the mass recreations.
She calls publics authorities and bosses for a respect of the rest and divine worship.

CCC 2188, In the respect of the religious liberties, the christians have to make recognize sundays and holy days of the Church as legal public holidays.

On the contrary of what you said, shopping on sunday is not appropriately a rest of the mind and the body. Even with family it create a big problem. It made others people to work to serve us.

I repeat myself,
Back to our experience in France. Here, we have many Catholics holidays that are out of work and school. Even if the things are increasingly worst now, the country respect more or less sunday break, including for shops and supermarkets.
There is a long history until now of fight for sunday rest. From left labor unions and Catholics.

For exemple, Saint Louis Martin have been kept his shop closed all sundays in XIX th century Alençon. It was considered as unwise because it was the day all the peasants come to mass from the contryside for mass and did their shopping. Despite that, he fights, and his business was a success.

There are catholics who made some of their shopping on sundays (I don’t exclude myself). But here the consusus is that we should avoid in order to avoid to create a social, economical and legal obligation for workers to work. You would not have a concerned faithfull or a priest who said another thing.

I am not sure that someone else in these others threats have explain the above, from this angle. But I think it is needed in this one threat.

It is not “frowned upon” to do physical labor/house chores on a Sunday. Some people, particularly people who work in an office, may even find the physical activity refreshing. However, performing non-critical chores that lead to burn out would be against the spirit of holy day abstinence from work.

“Family needs” is also an extremely broad exception. If parent or spouse needs to work on a Sunday to provide for the family, that labor is automatically excused in canon law.

If going to the gym made you resentful, then abstaining on Sunday would be appropriate. However, if the exercise that you got there helped “recharge your batteries”, then it would be appropriate for Sunday.

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