Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Holy leisure

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the July 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell I just got back from summer vacation and Iím more tired than when I left. After our camping trip with extended family I slept twelve hours, but woke facing twelve loads of laundry plus all the work that piled up while I was gone. I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

Itís not a bad thing to go camping. Itís not a bad thing to spend time with relatives or friends. The problem, I realized, is thinking itís leisure. For some people camping is relaxing ó not for me. All the packing up and preparation is definitely more work than staying home. Walking 50 yards to the bathroom, carrying stuff to the shower, and then waiting your turn under the cold spray isnít exactly convenient. And once the air mattress began to leak my chances of a good nightís sleep disappeared into the atmosphere.

In a conversation about this, my brother-in-law told me a recent vacation he spent with his family in Disneyland wasnít relaxing either. They spent the day hurrying from one attraction to another just to stand in long lines waiting. Cramming in visits to Universal Studios, Knottís Berry Farm and California Adventure didnít help ease the stress, either.

We need our vacations more than ever these days. In the last 30 years, the average worker in the United States has added about 200 hours to his or her annual work schedule. We need a break at least once a year to recover from the faster pace, higher stress and increased expectations. But what if our vacation just adds to all the pressure?

Before leaving town I had been reading about Benedictine spirituality. St. Benedict advocated the concept of ďholy leisure.Ē For me this conjured images of sitting peacefully by a stream contemplating the beauty of nature and the creative genius of God. It would be restful, nourishing to the soul and rejuvenating to the body.

After my camping trip, Iím more interested than ever in this holy leisure. But I realize Iíve got to find it somewhere besides sitting next to a stream or it just isnít going to happen.

St. Benedict laid out a Rule for his monks that prescribed a regimen of work and prayer and holy leisure. To most of us, it would seem rigid, as the monks arose in the dark at 3 a.m. to pray and their routine remained the same day after day. But what strikes me is that while the Rule kept slackers in line, it also assured there were no workaholics. If we had a better mix of work and leisure throughout the year, our annual vacations wouldnít carry such a heavy load.

Perhaps the place to begin is the question: What does nourish me? What do I find relaxing and restful?

For some it might be camping. For someone else it might be reading a good book, going on a bike ride, getting a pedicure or napping in a hammock.

We are inundated with messages about what we need. If we donít stop and reflect, itís easy to believe those messages. We can end up buying more and more things and participating in more and more fun activities, but still not getting the refreshment and recreation we need.

Once we figure out what does bring us back to life after a stressful week at the office or a particularly challenging day with the kids, then we need to commit to giving ourselves that gift now, not waiting until summer vacation. Okay, if itís a trip to the Bahamas without the children, it may have to wait. But giving yourself the chance to unwind and revive on a daily or weekly basis will make life a lot more whole in the meantime.

My sister is already planning next summerís family reunionóa road trip to Northern California where weíll camp in the mountains. Yes, Iíll be going. But it will be no vacation. I plan to figure out a number of ways to guarantee Iíll be well rested before we take off, and Iím scheduling my vacation to begin the day we get back.

© 2004, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and childrenís writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)

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