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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Is it a sin?

by Catherine Frakas 18 Jul 2001

Is it a sin? QUESTION from Alanna March 27, 2001 I have a question. I have heard that it is a sin to shop or go out to eat on a Sunday because it would be causing someone else to break the commandment that says to keep the Sabbath holy (they would be doing servile work). I have never asked a priest about this, but I thought that it was not a sin because that person would be working whether or not I bought anything from her/him. Also, that person may be working out of necessity to provide for himself and/or family. Can you please clear this up for me? Also, if it is a sin, is it mortal or venial?
In addition, my family and I abstain from eating meat on all Fridays of the year because we have read that it is still required, unless we substitute another penance. My question is, when we have eaten meat on those Fridays (outside of Lent) and forgotten, or not even intended to perform some other act of Penance, is it a mortal sin?
Lastly, is it considered servile work to do such things as wash the car, mow the lawn, or doing yardwork on Sunday? It seems as a family that most of this kind of thing can only be done on the weekends, and as we try to run errands on Saturday, Sunday is the only day left. Again, sin or not? Mortal or venial?
Thank you so much for your time on this.
In Christ, Alanna
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on June 4, 2001 Dear Mrs. Alanna:
I don't believe it is a sin to go our to dinner on Sunday or to shoppe, but we must be careful. Sunday is not suppose to be our day of errands. It is to be set aside for God and Family.
The Pope has recently issued a document on this issue. You can find it at:
On the second question I first must applaud you for keeping the precept of Friday Penance. Yes, Friday Penance is a REQUIREMENT year round (unless a solemnity falls on a Friday).
In the United States, one has the choice of either abstaining from meat or doing some other act of penance. The American Biships give these suggestions for what can be done if a person does not want to abstain from meat:
SAMPLE EXPRESSIONS OF PENANCE Efforts at reconciliation with a family member or neighbor
Tears of repentance
Concern for the salvation of our sisters and brothers
Prayer to the saints for their intercession
Patient acceptance of the cross we must bear to be faithful to Christ
Defense of justice and right
Admission of faults to God and to one another
Mutual correction
Offer and acceptance of forgiveness
Endurance of persecution for the sake of God’s kingdom
Development of a spirit of penance
Witness to a Christian way of life
If you unintentionally miss doing penance on a Friday it is not mortal sin. Mortal sin is NEVER committed accidentally or forgetfully. In order for anything to be mortal sin it must be deliberately, consciousnessly, and purposely committed knowing that the sin is grave and having full ability to choose to sin anyway.
Again, the wash the car, fix the roof, mow the lawn really shouldn't be done on Sunday in my opinion, but it is not a sin unless such activities prevent you from attending Mass or praying or spending time with family and relaxing. If such activities prevented the proper duties of Sunday, then I think it would be grave (and mortal if done with deliberate choice to commit a known grave sin). Remember, it is a day of rest too, not a day of work.
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