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Do’s and Don’ts for Sunday

The Third Commandment

The third precept of the decalogue commands us to honor God on Sundays and Holydays by observing the Sunday rest and attending Holy Mass.

Chapter I

Sundays and Holydays in General

I. The duty to honor God at stated times is a precept of the natural law, the general prescriptions of which are outlined in detail by positive law.

In the Old Testament this proximate determination was found in the divinely instituted ceremonial law. In the New Testament God has entrusted the particular legislation to His Church. — So far as the obligation arises from ecclesiastical law it admits of dispensation.

II. The days which must be sanctified in a special manner in the United States are, besides all Sundays, the Feasts of Christmas, Circumcision of the Lord, Ascension, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Cf. C. 1247).

Canon Law, legislating for the universal Church, includes also the Feasts of Epiphany, Corpus Christi, Saint Joseph and SS. Peter and Paul.

III. The sanctification of Sundays and Holydays consists in observing the Sunday rest (i.e., abstaining from certain occupations) and attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Chapter II

The Sunday Rest

The Sunday rest requires abstinence from all servile work, judicial acts and commercial occupation. There are reasons that excuse.

I. Servile work (opera servilia) is occupation primarily performed by corporal powers and for material purposes.

Such works are: plowing, sowing, harvesting, etc.; sewing, cobbling, tailoring, printing, masonry work, etc.; all work in mines and factories, etc.

In some places custom justifies shaving, hair cutting, knitting, crocheting, etc.

It is also permitted to go walking, riding, driving, rowing, journeying, even though these be very fatiguing.

Liberal and artistic works (opera liberalia) are also lawful: studying, teaching, drawing, architectural designing, playing music, writing (also typing), painting, delicate sculpturing, embroidering, taking photographs. These works are lawful even if done for remuneration.

Servile works are forbidden even though done gratis, as a form of recreation or for some pious purpose. — About two and a half or three hours of such work, according to its arduousness, is a grievous sin. Thus, operating a modern washing machine, which consists in putting the clothes in the machine, pressing a button, removing and hanging clothes, would be only a venial sin if done for that length of time without an excusing cause or dispensation.

II. Judicial acts are forbidden so far as they require juridical procedures or disturb the public rest.

Such acts are: summoning the defendant or witnesses, requiring the oath, publishing or carrying out the sentence. — The gravity of the sin is determined not so much by the length of time employed as by the importance of the action performed. — It is not forbidden, however, to consult a lawyer, to grant a dispensation, etc., on Sunday.

III. Commercial occupations are forbidden. Forbidden in themselves are such activities as marketing, fairs, buying and selling, public auctions, shopping in stores. Local customs, however, justify some of these actions. It is not forbidden for private persons to confer or agree on the purchase or sale of cattle, lands, houses, etc.

IV. Causes excusing from the Sunday rest are: dispensation, religion services and one's own or a neighbor's necessity.

1. Dispensation may be granted by the local Ordinary or the pastor, but the latter only to individual parishioners or single families of the parish and then only in particular cases (C. 1245).

Individual parishioners may also be dispensed when outside the parish territory; but strangers only when they are within the territory of the pastor granting the dispensation. — Superiors in exempt religious communities have the same rights as a pastor over the professed members, novices, candidates, pupils, the sick, convalescents, guests and those who reside in the monastery day and night.

2. Religious services justify any work that is immediately connected with divine worship.

Thus, it is permissible to ring church bells, carry banners, pictures, etc. in processions; but one may not sweep the church or decorate the altars unless necessity requires this.

3. Necessity excuses from Sunday rest if a considerable harm or loss would otherwise be sustained by oneself or one's neighbor.

Therefore, all indispensable housework is legitimate Sunday occupation. Poor people may work on Sundays if they cannot otherwise support themselves. If there is no time or occasion to do so on week days one may mend clothes on Sunday. For the same reason working people may tend their little gardens on Sunday. Farmers may harvest their grain, hay, etc., or gather fruit on Sunday if a storm threatens. — Any necessary work is allowed in case of fire, flood, etc. — Mechanics may sharpen, repair, etc., tools that farmers and artisans need on Monday. Tailors may work on Sunday if they cannot otherwise finish mourning clothes for a funeral. Lighter manual labor is also probably lawful for charitable purposes or to avoid boredom.

— Taken from Moral Theology by Jone & Adelman (Imprimatur, 1961)

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