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

Summer bathing

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 3, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky They say that the person with an open mind learns something every day. Well, last Wednesday was one of those days: I learned something!

While reading in the morning paper about this summer’s unusual heat, I discovered that meteorologists – those people whose unenviable job it is to try to predict the unpredictable weather – measure summer by the months of June, July and August.

All these years I have thought that summer began with the solstice on June 21. Astronomically speaking, it does, but then there are indeed other ways to measure time – and to learn something every day.

Both culture and weather patterns invite us to set our pace differently during the summer months. We anticipate what we hope will be sunshine-filled weeks as opportunities to take vacations, go to the proverbial lake, sit around the pool, barbecue in the back yard – and a thousand other relaxing things. Summer is a time for recreation.

Someone should write a book about the Christian spirituality of summertime. Whether this time is measured by the movement of the sun or by calendar pages, the weeks of summer are important to the human psyche and, yes, the soul. The gift of these days with their lessened pace and slackened responsibilities is found in the way a good number of us seek to spend them: in recreation. For those who work hard during the year, it is important to play hard.

Play is something that does not come all that easily for a great number of folks. Our work ethic instills the mentality that our value is found in what we do or what we produce. The profit margin of human existence tends to be measured in categories of productivity. The worthwhile person, it seems, is the one who does a lot.

Confronting this compulsion is the need for recreation. Yet, some people turn recreation into work and sooth their troubledness. Others find recreation opposed to work and live with persistent guilt if and when they do have fun. The phrase “Are we having fun yet?” is a truer question for some than we might suspect.

Chapter One of a good book on the Christian spirituality of summertime might well start with a consideration of the significance of the Incarnation.

By becoming flesh, Jesus did more than merely bless the human condition with his presence. He confirmed its value.

We are created in the image and likeness of God. Our human nature reflects divine presence. We creatures of God are more than what we can produce; even if we produce nothing, we manifest the goodness, beauty and glory of God. When the Word became flesh, born of Mary, God affirmed our fundamental goodness.

The magnificence of the Incarnation chastises that guilt which comes from not doing enough or not being sufficiently productive with our lives. We are to do our best, but our best is not reflected in what we achieve. God has already created the best: God created us.

The fun and relaxed pace of summer is an important return to an awareness of our fundamental goodness. During summer — or any time we take off to play — we become re-created.

Letting the distractions of legitimate daily responsibilities slip aside, summer is a time to touch base with a truer, richer part of our selves. We cannot force ourselves to have fun any more than we can make ourselves more good than God has created us. All we can do is let it happen.

Play and fun are integral parts of a balanced Christian spirituality. All work and no play make us dull boys and girls indeed, but they also rob us of the full richness of who we are in God’s eyes.

Play and other forms of recreation engage the human spirit in a richer dimension of existence where we simply are — with no boundaries of obligatory work or demanding compulsions. Play is not only fun; it is also profoundly Christian.

When we recreate we give glory to God by just being us. Our value as human beings is a given; recreation opens the door to the giftedness of life and gives us opportunity to cherish its wealth.

Now, mind you, those who sit around a pool or lakeside this summer hardly will have such deep metaphysical thoughts running through their minds as they sip their lemonade or quaff the Bud or gin and tonic. Actually, I hope they don’t. To think such heavy thoughts is too much work. They should just drink some lemonade, go for a swim, and give glory to God! There’s still another month of summer!

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)

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