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

Time to vacate

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the June 11, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky It’s hardly possible to pick up a religious book, newspaper or periodical nowadays without finding the phrase “journey of faith” somewhere in a headline, or even multiple times in the text. “Journey of faith” seems to be one of the churchy catch phrases of our age.

The phrase itself is a mere compilation of words which tries to capture the dynamic of following the way of God. When I was growing up we heard or read of “doing God’s will” and “making it to heaven.” Somehow I think that all three phrases mean pretty much the same thing to God. What matters is how consciously and faithfully the user pursues whatever he or she means by the phrase.

That being the case, I’ll toss another phrase into the hopper just for the sake of creativity. How about referring to life’s movement toward God as “going on vacation”? It’s as good as any other and manifests a few important nuances about the spiritual life.

Usually we think of vacation in terms of shutting down and getting away. Hardly an image of a relationship with a loving God, right? And indeed, we do shut down the office, school or home and find something different and sometimes challenging to do. At the same time, a few spiritual lessons can be learned from the experience of taking a vacation.

The very desire to go on vacation makes us mindful of the fact that we are not made for work alone. Whatever it is that causes the sweat of our brows, surely it is not the ultimate, fulfilling purpose of our lives! Our hearts long for something more. Is it possible that God actually calls us to take a vacation? Vacations force a broader and deeper perspective on things. Away from our work and well-known places of life and labor, we become preoccupied with a different set of needs and expectations. We are denied a certain worship of the work of our hands. As much as we may pour our hearts into our usual responsibilities, the world of the vacationer is expanded beyond the normal work-place. Yes, the world God sets before us is much larger.

Especially when they involve being around strangers, vacations keep us humble. Encountering a few score of people who don’t know us from Adam or Eve – and who, presumably, could care less – speaks a truth that is good for the heart. Strangers haven’t the slightest idea of who we are or the importance of our personal contribution to the human endeavor. And yet they, like us, are embraced and nourished by the love of God. Moreover, their God is the same God as ours (even if addressed by a different name).

Vacation can often be an occasion of surprise and the unexpected. Whether it be another vacationer whose smile catches our attention, a bird’s chirp which resounds in the heart, or a moonrise of exceptional brilliance, these kinds of experiences catch us off-guard and bless us with a touch of mystery. Our God is a God of surprises!

A final grace for the vacationer is the way the time away seasons the return to work. Cherishing the gift of vacation, the worker has come to know that God is found not only in times and things away, but also in the midst of work and daily responsibilities. It’s not that God has recharged a tired heart; it’s that God has become more familiar. Strange as it may sound, going on vacation can be a profound act of faith. Get out the backpack and suitcases!

(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)

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