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Catholic Dictionary




Originally the work done by serfs from which they were freed on Sundays and holy days in order to worship God. Until recently, servile work, forbidden on Sundays, was work that was chiefly physical. At present servile work is heavy manual labor, or such work as in a given society people commonly associate with strenuous effort and do not engage in when they have the freedom to avoid it. Implicit in the Church's prohibition of servile work on Sundays is fidelity to the divine commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. This means avoiding activities that would hinder renewal of soul and body, i.e., needless work or business, unnecessary shopping or housekeeping.