QUAERITUR: Sundays, open restaurants, and you.

From a reader:

I have had a discussion with a good traditional Catholic that has told me going out to eat after Mass on Sundays, or for that matter any Holy Day of Obligation, is a sin against the 3rd commandment. I contended it is not and that Catechism specifically calls out restaurants. What is your take on this? Is it licit to go out to eat after Mass?

Article 2187 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church envisions the necessity – and propriety-  of restaurants being open on Sundays in light of the 3rd Commandment of the Decalogue (that’s “The Ten Commandments” for people in Columbia Heights).

I quote:

2187 Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.

If one chooses to patronize a restaurant which remains open on Sunday, and one tips one’s waiter or waitress well, one is consistent with Catholic social teaching.

If one owns a restaurant and chooses to keep it closed on Sunday, giving the workers a day off (preferably paid), then one one is consistent with Catholic social teaching.

If one owns a restaurant and chooses to keep it open on Sunday, but makes provisions to ensure that workers have opportunities to attend Holy Mass and also have time for the due relaxation of mind and body, one is consistent with Catholic social teaching.

So, the next time you have a discussion with traditional Catholics, consider meeting after Mass at a restaurant for lunch and some discussion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mwk3 says:

    The part about tipping ‘well’ does not make sense to me, and I don’t see that in the quoted text.

    And what about businesses at which gratuity would be unusual (e.g., at a museum), or what about countries (such as my current country of residence) within which even at restaurants the custom is not to leave a tip?

  2. Cantor says:

    When I was stationed in Germany, one nearby Gasthaus became our unit’s regular place. So much so that we designated it OL-B (Operating Location-B). Presber’s was always open on Sundays, Christmas, and Easter, when most places ‘on the economy’ were closed.

    It was owned by a wonderful Jewish family who deeply respected our religion and cultural traditions as well as their own, and made us feel very much at home.

    God has many tricks up his sleeve to keep our pathway easy!

  3. Supertradmum says:

    In Europe, where there are flats or apartments without cooking facilities, the local pub or restaurant may be the only way for some to get hot food. Also, in many cultures, the local is not only a place for food but for socializing. Community building is not a strength among traddies.

    Americans should think larger than America. I am still intimate friends with students I met in London in 1986 because we went to Daquise after every Sunday Mass at the Oratory to discuss liturgy and Latin, etc. http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4640193367378169&pid=15.1

    I think that communal socializing is disappearing and to be honest, I would ask those same trads how many people who are single or old to they invite in to their Sunday dinners? We have lost the sense of community public eating places bring in Europe. And, in the harsh days to come, we need community and not just legalism.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    mwk3, I do not know where you live, but I have travelled much in the West and every country in Europe has a habit of tipping. Sometimes, it is already in the bill, which I have found out. If I have enough money to go out, which is rare, I have enough money to tip, especially on a Sunday.

    You are being gracious to someone who may have to work and has no choice.

    PS if it were not for places open on Sundays, I would not be able to talk on skype to my friends, use the Net, or do leisurely things on my computer.

    Now may I add that in some American cities, all the school soccer games are on Sunday mornings. I know many Catholic families which boycott these and that is a sacrifice. It is iniquitous, and unnecessary. And, I never shop on a Sunday. That does seem to be avoidable.

  5. Cantor says:


    Customs differ, of course. “Ist bedienung inbegriffen?” is a common inquiry in Germany. (“Is the service included?”) but it was common for us to include a bit more for exceptional service.

    I don’t think the good Father intends that you become a profligate diner on the Lord’s day, merely that you appropriately compensate the server in accordance with the local standards and practices, and not stiff them for their audacity to work on the Sabbath, as though you were Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn!

  6. pseudomodo says:

    It would seem to me that any Sunday activity that is not incositent with the corporal works of mercy can be permitted on a Sunday provided that it does not conflict with your obligation to go to mass. So feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc. can be legitimate.

    Burying the dead, maybe not…

  7. mamajen says:

    I always think it’s nice to see businesses that are closed on Sunday because it’s a rarity these days and it sends a message, but I certainly don’t feel guilty about the occasional shopping trip or meal out on a Sunday. Stopping off for donuts or brunch after mass is a popular thing around here. There are enough mass options available that employees shouldn’t have trouble finding a time that works, and I know that most places that are open on Sunday will be open whether or not I go there. It’s frustrating when some traditional Catholics go above and beyond what the Church actually teaches and then try to declare it as law.

  8. wolfeken says:

    Lots of relativism here, sadly. The commandment indeed extends to making other people work uncessarily on Sundays.

    We should consider that patronizing a place on Sundays increases the need for staff. To that end, an employee is likely being told she must work on Sundays because it’s a busy day at the restaurant. No rest time for that person on Sunday.

    Recognizing legalism can get out of control, still, wouldn’t the better option be a Saturday night dinner out, and then a Sunday dinner with friends/family at home if given the choice?

  9. Supertradmum says:

    wolfeken, many of us do not have families to eat with and go out to meet friends, especially after Church. It is not a question of merely going out for entertainment, but for needed fellowship.

    Many people only see friends on Sunday, because of distance and busy schedules at work or whatever.

    For example, when I was in Dublin, the only time I saw the TLM crowd was on Sunday. And, we went out, choir and all, for lunch. Most people I know are single and some marrieds, without children, but do not live close by each other. Most of them, including me, do not have cars. so the Sunday get together is not only important but unique.

  10. acardnal says:

    Another way to look at eating out on Sundays: SOMEONE has to prepare the food, cook the food, serve the food and clean the dishes. This applies to whether one eats at home and does this “work” them self or eats out and someone is paid to do this “work”. Eating is a necessity of life.

    The only caveat is that employers need to allow their employees an opportunity to attend Mass or services if Protestant. Remember, some people who work on Sundays are NOT Christian! They deserve to make an honest living, too. I often eat breakfast on Sundays after Mass at a cafe owned and operated by Muslims.

    Pope John Paul II also addressed this in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini.


  11. Giuseppe says:

    A few Protestant coworkers often spend much of Sunday at church. Bible Study followed by Worship Service followed by lunch and fellowship, and sometimes followed by an evening service. Many people pitch in for lunch, so work is being done, but it is for the good of the community.

  12. Supertradmum says:

    acardnal, thanks for the reminder of a great encyclical and here is a key section from it.

    But presuming a wider sense of commitment, why not make the Lord’s Day a more intense time of sharing, encouraging all the inventiveness of which Christian charity is capable? Inviting to a meal people who are alone, visiting the sick, providing food for needy families, spending a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity: these would certainly be ways of bringing into people’s lives the love of Christ received at the Eucharistic table.

  13. James Joseph says:

    I am a retail food-worker. Pox on Sunday shoppers and Sunday diners.

    Honestly, for the love of Pete, why is Sunday the busiest cash-money-changing-hands day of the week? And, how is it that Tuesday is the slowest?

  14. acardnal says:

    Supertradmum, I would add this, too, from Dies Domini:

    “In order that rest may not degenerate into emptiness or boredom, it must offer spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, opportunities for contemplation and fraternal communion. Therefore, among the forms of culture and entertainment which society offers, the faithful should choose those which are most in keeping with a life lived in obedience to the precepts of the Gospel.”

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Absolutely, which I am sure you join me in tying to do….but I see one movie a year or every two years, if Jackson has one out on the Hobbit theme, and cannot afford concerts. Having said that, a free concert of a Brahms Requiem, or the singing of Vespers in the Cathedral would be more in keeping with the spirit of the day, doncha’ think…? I myself rarely go out any more and have a habit of reading lots more on Sundays for the good of my soul. I prefer silence to anything else.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    acardnal, oops that last one was for you and trying not tying, but it is 12:13 here and I am signing off.

  17. acardnal says:

    STM, get some rest…..that is one of the points of this Post after all. ;-)

  18. mamajen says:

    I really think the bulk of the responsibility, in most cases, lies with the business owner. There are certain businesses that really need to be open on Sunday (gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, etc.), and there are others that probably don’t. Hobby Lobby is one example of a very large business that is closed on Sunday, and it’s not because people wouldn’t shop there, it’s because the owner made a decision. In any case, I think it’s a very big stretch to suggest that a Catholic patronizing a business that is normally open on Sunday is sinning by causing someone to work unnecessarily. The boss is causing that person to work, and whether it’s necessary or not is really tough to know if you’re on the outside looking in. I would definitely not, however, demand that a business cater to me on Sunday if it was not already part of their typical operations.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    arcardnal, it is Monday, or rather Tuesday, lol

  20. louder says:

    I’ve preached the past couple of years that people should avoid shopping, going to movies, restaurants , etc., because it seems as if there is a lessening of the sense of Sunday. Pope John Paul II spoke of how Sunday it being lost in the “weekend” attitude that our world exhibits. It was hard for me to break the habit of shopping, eating out on Sunday, but I did, and my life has improved because of it. It is harder, cooking for myself, not going to stores, etc., but it has helped put holiness back into my Sundays. I became sloppy, and I discovered that I considered Sunday my “workday” because of masses, and told myself “I need a break”, now I feel strange when I even think of buying something on a Sunday. Sorry for the sermon, but I feel strongly about this. [This isn’t the place for your sermons. I refer you to the CCC, above.]

  21. heway says:

    Amusing! Since we do not have a Sunday celebration, only Saturday vigil, it always presents a problem. What day should I avoid working, ie. cooking. We go out for breakfast on Tuesday after Mass and on Saturdays. We take our pastor, who cannot boil an egg and travels 60 miles to serve us. It is a wonderful time to meet friends that we have not seen for a week. Us country folks travel so far for Mass that we want to further the “Meal” !

  22. Margaret says:

    I can only hope that anyone, excepting those who live alone, who insists the family can’t eat out Sundays, steps up and does the needed shopping ahead of time, and all the cooking and cleanup so the household’s primary cook can get a day of rest…

  23. Imrahil says:

    That was an American reader, wasn’t it?

    I have the highest respect (yes, I have, however good or bad I am at showing it) for preserving the Faith in the diaspora, but still…

    this sort of question can only be imagined in an area where the Catholics feel pressed to win the morality race.

    It cannot be imagined in Europe.

    (Besides: King James the somethingth in the first half of the 17th century got waves and waves of critizism for not being strict enough on the Sunday. He was an Anglican; but he was with the Catholics on this.)

  24. kallman says:

    I have found that the term “traditional Catholic” can mean many different things and that even amongst “traditional Catholics” there would be a broad spectrum of views on subjects such as what one should/can do on Sundays beyond fulfilling one’s Mass obligation. Eating out would be only one such instance.

  25. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sunday, the holy day, the Lord’s Day, is not the same as the Sabbath. The idea of the Sabbath was rest, the day when God finished the week, the day when God was in the tomb.

    The idea of Sunday is both rest and celebration, the day when Creation began anew on Easter Sunday. It is holy and good — and it was a Jewish workday and a Roman workday, and our forefathers and foremothers couldn’t make it a day off until hundreds of years had passed.

    I will add that in medieval Europe, holy days and feast days were always days off — and always days of work for people who ran the feast day fair booths or superintended the celebrations going on.

    If you’re looking for total ritual purity proved by total unanimity of inaction, you’re in the wrong religion.

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  27. mattdiem says:

    Can anyone provide further insight into this issue? I really appreciate fr z’s post, but I could use some help understanding how it is we are to keep the Lord’s day(I’m a convert)….

    It seems that pre Vatican 2, it was considered sinful to ‘buy and sell not of necessity’ on Sunday….and now, with the new CCC, it seems that it is permitted. So, I’m trying to reconcile the two positions and compare them to the principles laid out in Exodus 20….

    This issue is, as far as I can tell, one that really needs teaching and clarification….like fr z says, you can fall into the ditch on either side of the road but I really need help with where the guard rails are….

    Is a coffee shop ok? Can I run to wal mart to buy my kid a birthday present? Can I go to the grocery store and buy some popcorn?

  28. StWinefride says:

    I see you have posted a photo of Daquise (one of my favourites) – you may not know this but Daquise is now “Gessler at Daquise” – I walked past there a few years ago and noticed the change – thankfully it still serves delicious Polish food and they have redecorated the restaurant! Here’s an article from the Guardian about the new Daquise:


  29. StWinefride says:

    Louder – thank you for your testimony. When I moved to Paris from London in 1999, I noticed a change in myself because shops are closed in France on a Sunday. (Some food shops and markets are open but they close at 13.00). My busy life stopped one day a week. I slowly came back to the Faith – I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I also know a family where I live now who started going to Church because they seemed lost on a Sunday i.e. no shopping!

    Fr Z, I think it’s good that other people can speak about their experience. The Catechism is good, books are good, but we can’t always intellectualize the faith. The best witness is the way we Catholics live our Catholic lives and we all help each other this way.

  30. John Nolan says:

    Gloomy and rigid Sabbatarianism is a hallmark of Protestantism. Saints’ days were known in England as “church ales”. Henry VIII got rid of most of them because he thought the hoi polloi were taking too many days off. Later Protestant “reformers” finished the job, and Oliver Cromwell even abolished Christmas. In Catholic Germany and Austria Corpus Christi Thursday is a public holiday. Most of the village turn out in the morning for Mass and procession, and then repair to the Biergarten or Weinstube. Hilaire Belloc put it neatly:

    Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
    There’s always laughter and good red wine;
    At least I’ve always found it so.
    Benedicamus Domino.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Hm, just realizing now how difficult this is.

    In Germany, you would just go to Mass and do nothing of the sort prohibited by secular law. (Yes, there’s always a bit of the conservative-anticonservative fighting around the Advent Sundays and a couple of “selling-open Sundays” a year, but this is detail.)

    In a Christian country which America is, you should strive politically to regain Sunday rest. I’m patriotic on this, but Walmart should not be open on a Sunday. It should be forced, by the State, to remain closed. You’ll get the trade unions in support for that btw.
    I guess this is the case for Independence Day, isn’t it? If that is possible, why not the Sunday.

    On the other hand, there’s not really (at least if there’s an Evening Mass) so much wrong if the local baker (who is also a neighbor and in some sense a friend) is open to provide you with fresh breadrolls in the morning, provided he runs the store locally and does not belong to a great combine. So I’m inclined to say “Walmart no – grocery store yes”. With the plain reason that Walmart is a major combine. (Distributism, anyone?)

    I’m also inclined to say that if you have forgotten the birthday present and have no other opportunity to buy it before the birthday, then you can do so, but you should not have forgotten it in the first place, and you should not calculate in the Sunday as opportunity to do these things.

    On the other hand, somehow disadvantage for disadvantage’s sake cannot be the real thing. The primary sense of the Sunday rest is the Mass obligation. Other senses are leisure, rest, time for prayer, time for the family (being the core of human society raised by God to sacramental honors) and a signal to Economy that it is not all-mighty. And all in all God’s praise of course. The buyer does not directly contradict anything of this (well, if he is in a rush to hurry through stores of all kind and buy loads and loads of things, he might); it is primarily participation-in-sin that he has to worry about. And I know this argument has a bad reputation, but in some situations he might ask “what does my refraining change”.

    Difficult. But by the general principle that things done for the Sunday are possible, restaurants at least are fine.

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    In the, “old days,” families used to be much larger (with extended families included), so Sundays were more naturally a day to visit and share within the home. Children played with each other (not the computer!), mom and dad reted (until time to make dinner) and both a sense of going beyond be self and virtue were inculcated. The rise of restaurants being open on Sundays is, in part, a reflection on the disintegration of family life. It was easier in 1940 to have Sunday, “Blue Laws,” in the States because most people had a welcoming home to go to on Sundays. I can’t speak for Europe, but pubs in the U. S. on Sundays were for lonely people. Now, it seems, that many people are lonely.

    The Chicken

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    …mom and dad rested. They may have also reted, but, apparently, that requires a pair of snowshoes, I think :)

    The Chicken

  34. wmeyer says:

    I spent most of forty years in the broadcast television industry, where Sunday is a day when pretty much everyone not employed in the business expects to be able to turn on the television and be entertained. When I was relatively young, and a manager, I preferred to work on holidays, letting those who worked for me and had families to have those days off. But besides being single, I was not active in my faith in those years; make of that what you will.

    We all assume the ability to go to a movie any day of the week, as well. And hospitals and trauma facilities must be available.

    As Fr. Z. points out, the CCC eliminates any possible dilemma.

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