Q: Genesis 2:3 says that, after creating the universe, God “rested from all the work he had done.” Since the church has always viewed the seventh day (Sunday) as holy, a day of rest and worship, is it right to go shopping on Sunday (which means that store clerks have to work on that day)? After all, there are six other days to buy and sell. (Bedford, Virginia)
A: The “rules” of the church on Sunday shopping are appropriately short on detail; instead, they place the responsibility on individual Catholics to determine whether their Sunday activities impact the day’s primary purpose of rest and prayer.
The responsibility to attend Mass on the Sabbath is, of course, a serious obligation for every Catholic. As for activities during the rest of the day, here is the general guideline: The Code of Canon Law says that the faithful “are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body” (No. 1247).
In my mind, the deciding question about Sunday shopping ought to be this: How necessary is it? There is a big difference between dashing to a convenience store because you ran out of orange juice and making Sunday the shopping day for the rest of the week.
And you make a valid point about causing others (store clerks) to have to work: The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day” (No. 2187).
Q: Recently in a conversation with our pastor, I happened to tell him that, when my parents got married in 1930 (my father was not a Catholic), the Catholic Church did not allow a mixed marriage inside the church building, and so they were married in the living room of my mother’s home by the local Catholic priest.
He responded that this could not have been recognized as a valid Catholic marriage if it did not occur inside a church. I do not believe that and would like to show him something to indicate that their marriage was recognized by the Catholic Church.
My mother was very religious; she went to Mass every day that she was able and would never have entered a marriage without the Catholic Church’s approval. I was very upset at our pastor’s response and would like to put my mind at ease. (Blaine, Minnesota)
A: You can relax and be at peace: I am quite sure that your parents’ marriage was recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.
At the time to which you refer (1930), marriages between a Catholic and a non-Catholic were quite rare. Frankly, the church tried to discourage them and required that such a marriage, though officiated by a priest, take place not inside a Catholic church (in a celebration attended by family and friends) but in a private ceremony, usually in the church rectory.
Today, perhaps one-third of Catholic marriages in the U.S. are ecumenical or interfaith. Although, the church does not go out of its way to encourage such marriages (because of the additional challenges a couple must deal with), it does try to support these couples and help them to live holy and happy lives.
Such marriages require diocesan permission, but they now do, of course, take place inside the church building — usually without a Mass, but sometimes, if the couple wishes, with a Mass.
Your pastor may be unaware of the church’s history on this; if you really want to prove it to him, contact the Catholic parish where your mother lived at the time, and I’ll bet they can provide you with a written record of your parents’ wedding.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, NY 12203.