Saturday, March 24, 2012

Servile Work on The Lord's Day...

On the Sabbath, Nate and I often ask ourselves, can we do this sort of work today?  We have tried to minimize our work on Sundays.  Our meals are simple; we try to eat off paper plates.  Breakfast is typically sweet bread such as banana or pumpkin bread, lunch is cheese, crackers and some veggies, and dinner is typically on the grill.  If I touch laundry, I only start a load and dry it.  I don’t fold nor have the children put it away until Monday.  But, what about leisure work, together on the Sabbath?  As a family, we love to work together and find this work enjoyable, relaxing, and prayerful.  When we pray in the morning, we tell our Lord that we will work, play, and pray for the love of Him; our whole day is a loving prayer.  
So today we googled it.   Is yard work ok?  Can we clean out our car?  Can we work in the garden?  We found that the answers were across the board.  Some stated that (assuming Mass was already covered) the only acceptable thing to do is to grab a spiritual book and read and that anything requiring “work”, i.e. garden, yard work, folding laundry is sinful.  So what is truth?
As Catholics we chose to consult the Precepts of the Church and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.    “The Precepts of the Church are a sort of ‘self-assessment’ by which their compliance with the minimum criteria for active Church membership can be measured. “ [1]
The Precepts of the Catholic Church, state “Servile labor, which may be thought of as work primarily oriented to sustaining our earthly existence or occupation, is today probably better understood not so much in terms of the physical exertion required, but rather in terms of the orientation of the work. An accountant, for example, might find digging in the garden or cutting the grass (traditionally reckoned servile) to be recreational, whereas doing tax returns on Sunday could be servile work for such a person, and should be avoided. For a cashier, playing the guitar is likely recreational, while for a professional musician, practicing on Sunday is probably a work to be avoided. “  [1]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “God's action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to "rest" and should let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed." The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC 2172).  “The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing….  ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’” (CCC 2173).  [2]
“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 2185) [2]
So this is not a “one size fits all” answer.  Nate works inside all week, at a computer, and whenever possible, he finds such joy in working with his hands, building, repairing, and loves being outside. I love to play in the dirt (landscaping, flowers, and vegetable gardening, pruning, mowing, anything outside that makes our home a more beautiful and pleasant place to live.) For our family, we can find God in everything we do on the Sabbath and all other days; going for a walk, cleaning out the car, raking leaves, boating, watching a video, reading a book, etc.  We all love to work together outside or inside, for love of God, and for quality family time.  It is rejuvenating, relaxing and, in our vocation of Mother and Father, we create a spirit of family, focused on love of God, keeping “Holy the Lord’s Day.”

[1]  Code of Canon Law, Precepts of the Catholic Church,
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) -


  1. Thank you, Kristen. Love the reminder to sanctify the Lord's Day. In our home we have one very different tradition from yours. On Sunday we get out the pretty plates, the wine/champagne glasses, the tablecloth and candles for dinner. It has become our own family way to make Sunday special. Looking forward to the wonderful spring weather to spend those Sundays out-of-doors!!

  2. Love that tradition Mary! Thank you for sharing! A tradition your family will remember forever... and, if you don't mind, my family might adopt! :)