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 rigo
ously 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


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


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


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.