Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
A reader writes:
Is it okay to shop online during Sunday? What if only downloadable, digital purchases are made? What do you think?
I suppose it depends on the spirit in which it is done. The idea is to set Sunday aside for rest and time with God and loved ones. People do different things to relax on Sunday. What is for one person a pleasurable bit of relaxation is, for another, a driving work of slavery to the work ethic or avarice. So one person might find gardening on a Sunday a lovely, restful, prayerful time while another might find it an exercise in a harried torment of trying to keep up with the Joneses and their perfect, manicured home and garden. If it’s the latter, then Sunday is the day to skip gardening and go find something restful and prayerful.
Same with shopping. Some people like to putter about shops or websites and admire all the lovely things, or think about gifts they might give, or look for the things they need for their leisure such as art supplies. If this is restful and an occasion for prayer or generosity, I see no harm in it. One caveat to this is that, by shopping on Sunday, you are helping to feed a system that makes people work on Sunday. On the other hand, you are also helping people (many of whom work at minimum wage) feed their family. So there’s that. On the other other hand, if you potter about on-line, it is only machines that are working. The main thing is to avoid “servile work”—making yourself or others a slave to something less than their human dignty, whether it is work or possessions. How you do that it between you and God. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula.