Before we begin, let’s clear something up: Sometimes I go out to eat on Sundays. Credible witnesses can attest to this fact.
A friend recently shared St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy). It’s a long, rich exploration of the what’s and why’s of Sundays, so naturally I just skimmed it and made a note to come back later and read it more carefully. But I link to it now because I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant problem since last summer. Here are some pertinent quotes:
65. By contrast, the link between the Lord’s Day and the day of rest in civil society has a meaning and importance which go beyond the distinctly Christian point of view. The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself, as appears in the creation story in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11): rest is something “sacred”, because it is man’s way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God. . . .
66. Finally, it should not be forgotten that even in our own day work is very oppressive for many people, either because of miserable working conditions and long hours — especially in the poorer regions of the world — or because of the persistence in economically more developed societies of too many cases of injustice and exploitation of man by man. When, through the centuries, she has made laws concerning Sunday rest, (109) the Church has had in mind above all the work of servants and workers, certainly not because this work was any less worthy when compared to the spiritual requirements of Sunday observance, but rather because it needed greater regulation to lighten its burden and thus enable everyone to keep the Lord’s Day holy. In this matter, my predecessor Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum spoke of Sunday rest as a worker’s right which the State must guarantee. (110)
FYI, Rerum Novarum is no commie pinko manifesto. Actually it’s an anti-communist manifesto. [And some other things, too.] Go read it sometime, it’s really fun. If you’re local, you can bait me into a conversation (bring the text, please) basically any time you want.
Anyway, the point for today is that Sunday rest, worship, and Christian fellowship are so important it just keeps coming up and coming up century, after century, after century. It’s like the Church just. won’t. shut-up. about it.
So let me tell you about my kid.
Woohoo! Gainful Employment!
I have this boy who can cook really well. Just last night I came home with a tray of chicken, pointed him to the grill, and he caused there to be dinner an hour later. So last summer we sent him out to find a job, and yes we all considered it providential when he got hired by the local sandwich shop. A few weeks of doing dishes and then on to cooking and he’s never left the kitchen. He’s still working there and everyone’s happy.
When he interviewed, he said up front that he had to have Sunday mornings off. Non-negotiable. Since this place gets most of its traffic on weekdays, the boss was good with that. But the restaurant is open Sundays, and so he does get assigned his share of Sunday afternoon-evening shifts.
As a result, he misses out on a lot of the Sunday-afternoon Christian fellowship activities that happen in our area. He can’t do Sunday afternoon youth group events, and he ends up leaving early to get to work if a friend hosts, say, a relaxing family get-together. We have some Christian friends with a pile of kids who are getting trained now to cut the birthday cake by 3pm so Mr. Boy can sing, eat, and run. Everyone else can stick around for hours of heavenly conversation and camaraderie, exactly like St. John Paul II writes about, but the boy gets to go to work.
How Do You Use Your Servants?
The reason he gets to go work is because other people want to eat.
People need to eat. Every single day, even multiple times a day. There are situations in which people have good reasons to need to hire someone to prepare food for them on a Sunday, and many more situations in which people have good reasons to want someone to prepare that food.
There are other services we likewise avail ourselves of on a Sunday, for various good reasons. I do this. You’re not the only one.
When we do this, it causes the people we hire to work for us to lose a bit of their Sunday.
This is an Evangelization Problem
There are people like my boy who aren’t under a ton of pressure. Sunday is not a high-traffic day for his restaurant. He is only working part-time, and if he were fired for not being available when the boss wanted him, he’d still have his parents at home gainfully employed. He’s not supporting himself, let alone a family, on this job.
Other people aren’t so lucky. If they are Catholic, they end up scrambling just to find an hour to run into Mass sometime during the weekend. If they aren’t Catholic and you tried to invite them to join you for Mass, or RCIA, or that fun thing you do on Sundays, they’d chuckle-cough and say, “Yeah. Sure. I’ll let you know when I get an opening.”
It is extremely difficult to evangelize someone who literally cannot go to church.
You Only Control a Slice of the Problem
There are parts of this problem that you can’t control. Some services (medical, police) are non-negotiables. Unless you’re in charge of the hospital or what have you, you don’t decide what the shifts will look like; unless you’re in charge of the parish, you don’t decide whether Mass times will line up with the local police and hospital and pharmacy shifts.
If that’s not your responsibility, it just isn’t.
Likewise, you probably don’t set restaurant hours. You’re not the one who decided to keep the amusement park open until midnight and then re-open at 8AM. To a certain extent, you can’t control whether the worker-bees get an opening for Mass or not.
But you do control a small slice.
When you make the decision to go out to lunch after Mass, you are making the decision that two or three people will report to work a couple hours before you arrive, and they’ll stay on a couple hours after you leave. What does that do to their day?
Return to The Catholic Conspiracy