ministry health

Navigating The Sabbath in Church Work: Insights and Action Steps

A coworker recently asked me about my approach to observing the Sabbath. It was clear the question had lingered in her mind, especially since transitioning from being a parishioner, where Sunday was the Sabbath, to joining our staff. This is a conversation I've navigated with priests, clients, coworkers, and volunteers alike. In Church service, the conventional Sunday-as-Sabbath concept isn’t always straightforward.

I understand that not everyone working for the Church is on duty on Sundays. Moreover, there's a range of views on whether one should worship where they're employed. There are compelling arguments on both sides. Despite this, I firmly believe that every pastoral staff member should participate in the majority of weekend liturgies, but not at the expense of their own Sabbath.

While I can’t speak to the unique challenges clergy might encounter, my 20 years at the local parish have taught me the complexities of Sabbath observance. Even though I've sometimes overlooked this day of rest, here's what I’ve found effective:


Our Catholic faith enlightens us that God's action sets the precedent for human action. If God "rested and was refreshed" on the seventh day, we, too, are called to rest and allow others, especially the poor, to find refreshment. The Sabbath halts our daily work, offering a pause and a protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2172).

God's rest mandates our own. While our work remains, God beckons us to find peace in His presence, a notion vividly depicted in the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), where Jesus invites Martha to abandon her worries for rest.

For those of us working on Sundays, selecting an alternate day for Sabbath is crucial. My choice is Saturday, considering my weekends as Friday and Saturday, though I often engage in Marathon Youth Ministry on Fridays. Saturdays only transform into workdays for retreats or events, adjusting my rest days accordingly.

Choosing a consistent day for rest avoids relegating our Sabbath to an afterthought. For anyone struggling to find their Sabbath, identify one day each week to fully disconnect and rejuvenate.

Action Step: Reflect on your week and determine a consistent day that can be dedicated to rest, ensuring it becomes a priority in your schedule.


On my Sabbath, disconnecting from emails and engaging in activities that replenish my spirit is paramount. Early morning runs with friends, getting morning coffee with my wife, and reflecting with my Monk Manual are what fill my Saturdays with joy.

Attending Mass at my workplace is a norm, but busy Sundays lead us to seek worship at a different parish the day before. The essence of observing the Sabbath lies in replenishment, preparing us for our Lord’s work.

Action Step: Identify activities that bring you joy and incorporate them into your Sabbath to ensure a truly rejuvenating day.


Setting boundaries is crucial for an undisturbed Sabbath. My strategies include no work email on my phone, leaving the parish laptop at work, and avoiding social media. These are not infallible solutions, but they shield me from energy-draining distractions.

It's important to communicate your boundaries to colleagues, volunteers, and parishioners, ensuring they understand how to reach you in case of necessity.

Action Step: Establish and communicate your boundaries to those around you, creating a protective space for your Sabbath.


Addressing Sabbath observance often prompts questions about coordinating with coworkers. While the parish office may not require a seven-day workweek, understanding your team's schedule facilitates smoother operations in your absence.

Your pastor or supervisor plays a crucial role in this plan. Ensure they support your Sabbath schedule, explaining its purpose (e.g., family time, post-program recovery). While you need not justify your schedule to every coworker, collaborating with them is essential for mutual respect and support.

Action Step: Discuss and agree on a Sabbath observance plan with your team, ensuring everyone's needs are met and respected.

Observing the Sabbath and taking time to rest and refuel aligns your actions with God's will, fostering longevity in your discipleship. It acknowledges the complexities of ministry and life, underscoring the necessity of God's grace to persevere. Establishing a plan and working collaboratively with your coworkers emphasizes the spirit of Sabbath: a time for renewal and reflection.

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