The Scriptures tell us that even God rested after the hard work of Creation. So it should be with us.
At a recent meeting of our diocesan Presbyteral Council, I told the priests there that, while our pastoral responsibilities may be pressing, rest and recreation over the summer is a good thing.
Time off is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
When I worked in Rome, in July and August the city cleared out, leaving lots of room for tourists and providing a break from the Eternal City’s notorious traffic. Italians have a well-honed sense of the need for leisure. Even those new to a job are assured of vacation time.
As Americans, perhaps imbedded in our history as a relatively new and developing country, we are more inclined towards honoring work over the need for leisure. Still, all of us need time to rest, recuperate and refresh. Summer vacation provides us with that, not only for our bodies and minds, but also for our spirit.
How can we integrate our spirits into the seeming frivolity of vacation time? Here are some ideas:
Free time can be used to reflect on the state of our souls. It has been the custom for many people on vacation at our Jersey Shore parishes to participate in daily Eucharist. They find it a wonderful opportunity to be able to use that extra time to deepen their relationships with the Trinity, to draw closer to Jesus.
Another favorite pastime for beachgoers is reading. Many books are advertised as “beach reading.” Besides fiction, biography, or a best-seller, vacation is also a good time to pick up a book or two on spiritual topics.
For example, Jesuit Father Jim Martin has written some wonderfully uplifting and entertaining reflective books, one of which is “My Life with the Saints.” The late Henri Nouwen wrote some wonderful books on spiritual reflection, many of which are still in print. Perhaps you know of other spiritual writers who connect with you. Summer is a good time to renew that literary acquaintance.
Vacation remains a precious time for all of us. We get very busy, very caught up in our daily routines. We accumulate a lot of little stresses (and some not-so-little) and vacation time is an opportunity to let go of the daily routine and compiled stresses we experience. In our area the summer months tend to be more relaxed and slower-paced. It’s important for each of us to take advantage of this small “gift” of leisure time and slower pace to be refreshed in mind, body and soul.
I pray that in the next few months, as so many of us are colored by the sun, will be an opportunity for all of us to be touched a deeper way by the Son.
See you at the shore.