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SERVILE WORKS





BUT, if servile works are prohibited on the Lord's day, it must be
remembered that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath," that, for certain good and sufficient reasons, the law ceases
to oblige; and, in these circumstances, works of a purely servile
nature are no longer unlawful. This is a truth Christ made very clear
to the straight-laced Pharisees of the old dispensation who interpreted
too rigorously the divine prohibition; and certain Pharisees of the new
dispensation, who are supposed assiduously to read the Bible, should
jog their memories on the point in order to save themselves from the
ridicule that surrounds the memory of their ancestors of Blue-Law fame.
The Church enters into the spirit of her divine Founder and recognizes
cases in which labor on Sunday may be, and is, more agreeable to God,
and more meritorious to ourselves, than rest from labor.

The law certainly does not intend to forbid a kind of works,
specifically servile in themselves, connected with divine worship,
required by the necessities of public religion, or needed to give to
that worship all the solemnity and pomp which it deserves; provided, of
course, such things could not well be done on another day. All God's
laws are for His greater glory, and to assert that works necessary for
the honoring of God are forbidden by His law is to be guilty of a
contradiction in terms. All things therefore needed for the preparation
and becoming celebration of the rites of religion, even though of a
servile nature, are lawful and do not come under the head of this
prohibition.

The law ceases likewise to bind when its observance would prevent an
act of charity towards the neighbor in distress, necessity, or pressing
need. If the necessity is real and true charity demands it, in matters
not what work, not intrinsically evil, is to be done, on what day or
for how long a time it is to be done; charity overrides every law, for
it is itself the first law of God. Thus, if the neighbor is in danger
of suffering, or actually suffers, any injury, damage or ill, God
requires that we give our services to that neighbor rather than to
Himself. As a matter of fact, in thus serving the neighbor, we serve
God in the best possible way.

Finally, necessity, public as well as personal, dispenses from
obligation to the law. In time of war, all things required for its
carrying on are licit. It is lawful to fight the elements when they
threaten destruction, to save crops in an interval of fine weather when
delay would mean a risk; to cater to public conveniences which custom
adjudges necessary,--and by custom we mean that which has at least the
implicit sanction of authority,--such as public conveyances,
pharmacies, hotels, etc. Certain industries run by steam power require
that their fires should not be put out altogether, and the labor
necessary to keep them going is not considered illicit. In general, all
servile work that is necessary to insure against serious loss is
lawful.

As for the individual, it is easier to allow him to toil on Sunday,
that is, a less serious reason is required, if he assists at divine
worship, than in the contrary event. One can be justified in omitting
both obligations only in the event of inability otherwise to provide
for self and family. He whose occupation demands Sunday labor need not
consider himself guilty so long as he is unable to secure a position
with something like the same emoluments; but it is his duty to regret
the necessity that prevents him from fulfiling the law, and to make
efforts to better his condition from a spiritual point of view, even if
the change does not to any appreciable extent better it financially; a
pursuit equally available should be preferred. Neglect in seeking out
such an amelioration of situation would cause the necessity of it to
cease and make the delinquent responsible for habitual breach of the
law.

If it is always a sin to engage without necessity in servile works on
Sunday, it is not equally sinful to labor little or labor much. Common
sense tells us that all our failings are not in the same measure
offensive to God, for they do not all contain the same amount of malice
and contempt of authority. A person who resolves to break the law and
persists in working all day long, is of a certainty more guilty than he
who after attending divine service fails so far as to labor an hour.
The question therefore is, how long must one work on Sunday to be
guilty of a mortal sin.

The answer to this question is: a notable time; but that does not throw
a very great abundance of light on the subject. But surely a fourth of
the whole is a notable part. Now, considering that a day's work is, not
twenty-four hours, but ten hours, very rarely twelve, frequently only
eight, it will be seen to follow that two hours' work would be
considered a notable breach of the law of rest. And this is the
decision of competent authority. Not but that less might make us
grievously guilty, but we may take it as certain that he who works
during two full hours, at a labor considered servile, without
sufficient reason, commits a mortal sin.





Next: COMMON WORKS

Previous: WORSHIP OF REST



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