From a reader…
As long as a person fulfills their Sunday Obligation, and sanctifies the day with prayer and time with family, can a person go golfing even though that would require someone to work on Sunday?
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
One is obliged, on Sundays and Holy Days, to “abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body.”
It has long been a question of whether one should forgo any leisure activity which might cause another to have to work on Sunday. The Orthodox Jews tend to take a very strict interpretation of the rest required of the Sabbath. My oven came programmed with a “Sabbath setting” for such persons, which would allow the delayed cooking of a brisket without the owner having to push a button or turn a knob on Saturday. In some places, Jews would hire a “shabbas goy” – a non-Jewish neighbor who would come to turn the lights on and off. We are not Orthodox Jews.
Still, we should be mindful not only of avoiding servile labor on the Lord’s day, but also how our leisure activities might require others to labor. Not changing the oil in one’s car (unless one considers tinkering to be a relaxation, especially when a father uses it to spend time with his sons) might be virtuous, but taking one’s car to a dealership for them to change the oil while one sits in the vehicle feeling virtuous about one’s avoidance of servile labor would seem to be beyond the pale.
Perhaps the most common question involves eating in a restaurant on a Sunday. Eating out can be an enjoyable leisure activity. But it also requires others to work. We could all wax eloquent about the good old days when all restaurants – and pretty much everything else – were closed on Sundays. We don’t live in those times. We have to make choices and decisions. I think a decision to forgo eating out on Sundays can be a wonderful thing, but I would be loathe to ascribe sin to those who choose to go for a brunch with friends and family after Sunday Mass (to further discuss the important parts of Father’s insightful homily, and the choir’s rhapsodic take on Tallis). Hopefully, those who dine out on Sunday are overly generous with their tips.
Almost all leisure activities outside the home require others to work. Even driving on the road requires the presence of our brave police officers. A walk through a park necessitates the labor of park attendants. And yes, getting to the point of the question (finally), golfing requires the services of greenskeepers, attendants, perhaps a caddy, and various and sundry other workers.
The catechism states, “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 (CCC 2187).” So it seems that the Church permits that eating out, engaging in some sports or other leisure activity is not necessarily sinful on Sunday, as long as efforts are made to ensure that laws provide reasonable rest and time for worship and employers safeguard their employees right to get in some leisure and the worship of God.