Question about Shopping on Sunday

Question about Shopping on Sunday April 5, 2014

over at the Register.

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  • Marthe Lépine

    I am curious as to what kind of comments you have been receiving at the Register about that post – unusual to close comment almost within 24 hours. But as far as I am concerned, I agree with you, your post is very good. This, it seems to me, is a good example of an area where “prudential judgement” and common sense are keys. But, of course, common sense died a long time ago…

  • Steve P

    I couldn’t comment because it was Sunday…

  • Rosemarie


    The reasons I’ve heard given for not shopping on Sundays are 1) So you don’t encourage the stores to stay open and make their employees work on Sundays and 2) Hauling heavy packages home from the store can qualify as “servile labor.” Neither of those seems to apply with online shopping. If you pay for something online on a Sunday, the person can always fill your order on Monday (and the post office is closed Sunday so s/he has to wait a day to send it anyway). And online purchases obviously don’t involve hauling packages home. So it seems strictly unnecessary to refrain from online shopping on Sunday. Of course, an individual can still choose to do so as a way of making Sunday “special.” That would be valid.

    • thisismattwade

      Why would you think that just because you don’t set foot in a physical store you’re not making people work? Electronic media and commerce require constant human supervision (albeit less so than brick and mortar establishments), and extremely strenuous intervention in the event of a system failure.

      Justify shopping on Sundays all you want, but don’t think you’re not causing someone to work just because you don’t drive your car somewhere.

      • Rosemarie


        Considering the internet is kept up 24/7, people will be supervising it on Sundays whether or not anyone purchases anything online. So it’s not like refraining from buying anything online will give them a day’s rest.

        However, I was thinking more about online merchants, the ones who will have to fulfill the orders. While patronizing a brick and mortar establishment on Sundays creates the need that people work on that day to keep the place open, it is not so with online marketplaces. Say you buy something on ebay on a Sunday. The seller can always wait till Monday to pack and send it. That’s what I mean; just because you place an online order on Sunday doesn’t mean the person *has* to fulfill it that very day.

        Again, though, like I said at the end of the post, one can still choose to refrain from online purchases on Sunday as part of making it a day of special religious observances. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it may be commendable.

        • thisismattwade

          Thanks for clarifying Rosemarie.

          I liken it to Mr. Shea’s remarks regarding voting – it doesn’t change the system as much as it changes us. As Christians, I think our refraining from any kind of shopping on Sunday does more to build us up in observance of the 3rd Commandment and works of mercy, than it does to really change the culture outside of our smallish spheres of influence. In light of that I would say that, aside from fellowship activities at restaurants, there isn’t much of any kind of commercial activity that Christians should require of our brethren on the Lord’s Day.

          I hope I’m not sounding too legalistic in this regard. I look forward to your response. I still struggle with the topic of going out to eat on Sundays, but my family was at a restaurant yesterday to celebrate a birthday so I’m guilty!

          • Rosemarie


            I kinda like what Jimmy Akin says about this:


            He points out that the Church’s requirement has been rephrased, leaving more to individuals to figure out how it is best for them to observe the Lord’s Day.

            It sometimes seems like a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, we do want to sanctify the day as the Third Commandment requires. OTOH, we don’t want to imitate the Pharisees with overly-burdensome restrictions that violate the spirit of God’s Law in the name of keeping the letter. Jesus was, of course, dead set against that.

            St. Paul also seems to indicate that Christians enjoy a certain amount of freedom in such things (Colossians 2:16). While we are bound to keep certain holy days, some of the particulars of exactly how we keep them may be left up to us. We should also remember his admonition that Christians not judge one another WRT certain non-essentials (Romans 14). Whatever we do should be done as unto the Lord.

            I recently read this about how the Von Trapp family observed Sunday:


            It would seem that this describes a particular Austrian custom. I have not researched whether all of Europe (not to mention all of the Christian world, East and West) has traditionally done something like this. It is, of course, lovely and commendable for a Catholic family to treat the Lord’s Day this way if they can do it. Yet it would be wrong to judge a family that is unable to follow this in all the particulars, but instead finds another way to keep Sunday holy that fits their unique circumstances. Especially since Mother Church does not set this meticulous requirement; it is a cultural thing, good but not mandatory.

            Believe me, I would love to do something like this, but it’s not doable in my house right now, not with three special needs kids and all. Sometimes it feels like I have no real rest any day of the week, especially weekends when they’re all home. So I’m the last person to judge anyone’s Sunday observance. I generally refrain from doing the wash on Sundays; at least I can accomplish that at this point.

            So really, it’s between the individual and God. Do just what Mother Church requires plus a little more as an act of supererogation. Maybe you can later add even more as you see fit, as long as it doesn’t become too burdensome. As our Lord said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

    • The first reason doesn’t always apply in diverse communities. I’ve lived in communities with significant Jewish populations, where the stores were closed on Saturday and open on Sunday; since I worked long hours during the week, Sunday shopping was a must.

      I always liked the Catholic Answers (I think it was them) approach — that it is less about whether one has to (or chooses to) work on Sunday, and more whether employers allow their employees time off at some point in the week for them to rest and enjoy life, friends, and family.