Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What are my obligations on Sunday for rest and to attend Mass?
Q: I've been wondering about working on Sundays. I know the fourth commandment says to remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy, but what exactly does that mean? In a lot of places today employers won't hire you if you're unwilling to work Sundays, so are we then to restrict ourselves from all of these? Or is there something else we can do to "make up" for it?
A: This topic is one that has come up twice now in recent times, and to get the answer right I had to refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2184-2195. (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c1a3.htm#2192)
The reason it came up before was because of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, and a student asked me if Hockey excuses him from this obligation. When you read the Catechism, the language about attending Mass is much stronger than that about resting, but both are listed as requirements! Basically, we should not commit ourselves to other activities if they will compromise our commitment to the faith. The CCC acknowledges that some people have to work on on Sundays- like poor people or people who work in restaurants- but states that they should put time aside for rest and family anyway.
Priests obviously have to work on Sundays, and so most of them take Mondays off. I used to do that as a Youth Coordinator, and I protected by day off jealously. God prescribed rest for us, because it is only with rest that we can grow in holiness. So instead of viewing this as a religious obligation, we can see it as a healthy lifestyle choice. It also happens to be the 7th Habit in Stephen Coveys famous "7 Habits of highly effective people".
So, I think that there is room for interpretation, and you need to make a choice for yourself with an informed conscience. (Most cases are like that.) Here is what I suggest; Apply for jobs that say you have to work on Sunday, and in the interview tell them that for religious reasons you require Sundays off. I suspect that in most cases they would not want to deny you employment for religious reasons. (Although I suppose if a Jew applies to work at a pig farm, but refuses to work with pigs, they will probably be denied employment) It would also witness to them about the importance of this Christian principal in your life, when our culture has largely abandoned it. I think it would be good for you to make reasonable sacrifices in order to have Sundays free, including financial sacrifices! If, however, you simply cannot find a job that allows for you to have Sundays off, then take one that does not. But do whatever is necessary to get to Mass on Sunday!
Again, that is just my advice- at the end of the day I think God wants us to make informed decisions in good conscience, so drawing your own conclusions would be a valuable exercise!
Posted by Peter van Kampen at 8:40 AM