Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sunday Obligation and Getting the Job Done

This post is about the Sunday Obligation and this Catholic family. But first, a little background.

Water Damage: Bad News/Good News

About an hour after midnight on September 17, 2010, a pipe burst in the laundry room of my house, flooding three rooms on the ground floor and two in the basement. (September 21, 2010)

That sentence tells you a few things:
  1. We've got
    • Indoor plumbing
    • At least five rooms in the house
    • A room that's used mostly for washing clothing
  2. There's been a mess to clean up
So much depends on how a person looks at a situation.

Looking at item number one, my family and I are doing wonderfully well. My father and my mother spent parts of their childhoods in a world of outhouses and pumping water out of a cistern or well by hand. Quite a few folks still live that way.

Looking at item number two, my family and I have had a little setback. We haven't gotten bills for the cleanup and repairs - but it'll probably run far into four figures. Make that five. Even with insurance, this is going to make a dent in the household finances. But, we'll manage. And that's another topic.

Here's how an unplanned indoor water feature and the Sunday Obligation connect:

Working on Sunday, Rules, Principles, and Decisions

I've written about the Catholic Church's Sunday Obligation before. (August 16, 2009) Essentially, we're 'not supposed to work' on Sunday. There are exceptions. Some folks, like those who are on duty in hospitals, law enforcement, emergency services, or critical infrastructure, simply can't leave their posts. Somebody's got to be on watch 24/7/365. And the Church recognizes this.

Then there's just what "work" is. Turns out, the prohibition focuses more on "servile work." Which I've discussed before. (January 2, 2010)

All of which led to a decision that had to be made today.

The fellow who is putting a new floor down asked me if we had a problem with his coming in tomorrow: Sunday. Some folks, in his experience, don't like anyone working on their place on that day.

I'm not too crazy about the idea myself.

I said 'okay,' after checking with my wife to see if there was a scheduling issue involved.
Religious Scruples, Cultural Values, and Where the Buck Stops
What?! Here I claim to be a Catholic, and I let somebody desecrate the Sunday Obligation?!!

Whoa. Let's turn the volume down a bit.
  1. I'm not entirely convinced that what this construction specialist does is "servile work."
  2. He asked if he could come back tomorrow to wrap up one phase of the job
  3. He's not the only contractor working on this project
There's a plumber who may be ready to get the toilet back in working order on Monday. If we don't have the site ready for him: his schedule's disrupted - and that disruption will ripple out through the folks he's connected with.

If all that sounds like I'm concerned about keeping the work flow going: you're quite right. I'm a Catholic, but I'm also an American - and many of us place a high value on getting things done in a timely fashion. Think of it as a case of upholding cultural values.

Then there's that Matthew 22:36-40 thing. How 'loving' would I be toward these neighbors of mine - the fellows who are working at getting my house back in working order - if I make it harder for them to get their work done?

On the other hand, I take the Sunday Obligation seriously.

Bottom line? I made the point about Sunday being a day of rest - but acknowledged that there were practical considerations and gave him the green light to come in and finish a critical phase of the job.

Was that a mistake?

Maybe. I don't think so, but I've been wrong before. If it was, the decision was mine. Like it or not, I'm the head of this household, and the buck stops here.1

What's the Big Deal?

The Sunday Obligation is a serious matter. As a Catholic I'm expected to celebrate Mass once a week - unless there's a really serious reason for not doing so.

On the other hand, as I've written before, we're 'called to holiness, not stupidity.' (July 17, 2010)

I had the opportunity today to present my faith as something with rigid, impractical rules - or as something that takes the lives of other folks into consideration. I chose to make at least two other folks' lives a little less difficult.

It's not an effort to be "nice," although that's involved.

I think that Christianity has enough bad press as it is. (See "Crowbar for Christ in Colorado?" (October 7, 2010)) If I can accommodate a reasonable request and make a point about how Catholicism works: I'll do so.

About tomorrow morning's Mass? It's a Polka Mass - and that's another topic.

Related posts:
1 It's the Ephesians thing - all of it - and I've discussed that before. (September 24, 2009)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.