THERE is a third sort of works to be considered in relation to Sunday
observance, which, being of their nature neither liberal nor servile,
go by the specific name of common works. This class embraces works of
two kinds, viz., those which enter into the common, daily, inevitable
necessities of life, and those in which the mind and body are exerted
in an equal measure.
The former are not considered servile because they are necessary, not
in certain circumstances, but at all times, for all persons, in all
conditions of life. Activity of this kind, so universally and
imperiously demanded, does not require dispensation from the law, as in
the case of necessary servile works properly so-called; but it stands
outside all legislation and is a law unto itself.
These works are usually domestic occupations, as cooking and the
preparation of victuals, the keeping of the house in becoming tidiness,
the proper care of children, of beasts of burden and domestic animals.
People must eat, the body must be fed, life requires attention on
Sunday as well as on the other six days; and in no circumstances can
this labor be dispensed with. Sometimes eatables for Sunday consumption
may be prepared on the previous day; if this is not done, whether
through forgetfulness, neglect or indifference, it is lawful on Sunday
to prepare a good table, even one more sumptuous than on ordinary days.
For Sunday is a day of festival, and without enthusing over the fact,
we must concede that the words feast and festival are synonymous in
human language, that the ordinary and favorite place for human
rejoicing is the table, and in this man differs not from the other
animals of creation. This may not be aesthetic but it is true.
In walking, riding, games, etc., the physical and mental forces of man
are called into play in about equal proportion, or at least, these
occupations can be called neither liberal arts nor manual labor; all
manners of persons engage therein without respect to condition or
profession. These are also called common works; and to them may be
added hunting and fishing, when custom, rightly understood, does not
forbid them, and in this region custom most uniformly does so forbid.
These occupations are looked upon as innocent pastime, affording relief
to the body and mind, and in this respect should be likened to the
taking of food. For it is certain that sanitary conditions often as
imperiously demand recreation as nourishment. Especially is this the
case with persons given to sedentary pursuits, confined during the week
to shops, factories and stores, and whose only opportunity this is to
shake off the dull monotony of work and to give the bodies and minds
necessary relaxation and distraction. It is not physical rest that such
people require so much as healthy movement of a pleasing kind, and
activity that will draw their attention from habitual channels and thus
break the strain that fatigues them. Under these conditions, common
works are not only allowed, but they are to be encouraged.
But it must not be lost sight of that these pursuits are permitted as
long as they remain common works, that is, as long as they do not
accidentally become servile works, or go contrary to the end for which
they are allowed. This may occur in three different manners, and when
it does occur, the works known as common are forbidden as servile
1. They must not expose us to the danger of omitting divine service.
The obligation to positively sanctify the day remains intact. Sin may
be committed, slight or grievous, according as the danger to which we
expose ourselves, by indulging in these pursuits, of missing public
worship, is more or less remote, more or less probable.
2. These works become illicit when they are excessive, when too much
time is given to them, when the body receives too large a share of the
exercise, when accompanied by overmuch application, show or fatigue. In
these cases, the purpose of the law is defeated, the works are
considered no longer common and fall under the veto that affects
servile works. An aggravating circumstance is that of working for the
sole purpose of gain, as in the case of professional baseball, etc.
3. Lastly, there are exterior circumstances that make these occupations
a desecration of the Lord's day, and as such evidently they cannot be
tolerated. They must not be boisterous to the extent of disturbing the
neighbor's rest and quiet, or detracting from the reverence due the
Sabbath; they must not entice others away from a respectful observance
of the Lord's day or offer an opportunity or occasion for sin, cursing,
blasphemy and foul language, contention and drunkenness; they must not
be a scandal for the community. Outside these contingencies of
disorder, the Sabbath rest is not broken by indulgence in works
classified as common works. Such activity, in all common sense and
reason, is compatible with the reverence that God claims as His due on
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