Here we are, well into July, and some of us are deep into vacation mode. Meanwhile, some of us are, at this moment, still pining for it. Given my own summer-like mood, I thought, why not write about the joy of summer? Surely, said I, the-catechist-who-loves-finding- cool-stuff-in-the-catechism, surely the Catechism must have some words of wisdom on the subject?! (But I couldn’t recall any, other than “keeping holy” the Sabbath.)
I decided to have a little fun with the search engine I use for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
First search: “Vacation.” Result: No documents match the query.
Next search: “Summer.” Result: Nothing.
CCC 901 gives us this gem that I will paraphrase: Relaxation of the mind and body, if accomplished in the Spirit, can be offered up to God!
Got that? We can have some great “time off” and “down time” and still love God and serve Him! This is because all our works and activities can be done for the glory of God.
Let’s read CCC 901 in its entirety:
…the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit maybe produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives. [Emphasis mine.]
This understanding comes to us by way of our baptism. At baptism, Christians are incorporated into Christ and anointed as “priest, prophet, and king.” (See CCC 1241 and 1546.) And this priestly role of the laity sets us apart for worship. In other words, when we attend Mass, we join with the ordained priest to lift up our very lives as an offering to God in holy worship. We lift up everything in our lives… including our relaxation and rest!
But it doesn’t stop there…
Outside of Mass, when we live lives of holiness in our daily duties, in our comings and goings, indeed, we consecrate the world to God by our holy actions. Our daily life, in whatever we do, can be a form of worship to God.
This teaching is taken directly from the Documents of Vatican II, specifically, Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, paragraph 31:
What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature [meaning, they live and work in the world beyond the Church’s door]…
The laity, by their very vocation, seeks the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. [Emphasis mine.]
This means, that you and I are called – and led by the Spirit – to make God’s light and love shine in all the places and situations that life takes us… and that even includes your rest, your vacation, your time off. In fact, if you read the above closely, it is our “special task” to throw light on such affairs.
In this column, I’m suggesting that even our vacation time should bring light to the world. I’ll offer a few suggestions, but I’m sure you could name dozens of ways you and your families might shine your light of faith in less formal ways this summer, once you give it a little thought.
Here are a few easy suggestions…
- Recreation in Creation: Delight in God’s creation! Get out into one our National Parks, or the myriad of state parks that are open to the public. Be a good steward and be sure to respect the environment whenever you go. Camp, picnic, ride bikes, or hike. Creation is God’s first gift to us… take time to marvel at its beauty and to share with someone how you “find God” in nature.
- Get friendly. Show the world that Christians know how to have good, clean, fun – and lots of it! Christians should be experts at exemplifying a joie de vivre that is contagious! When my children were small, nothing said good clean fun outdoors like a laundry basket full of water balloons. Today, it’s a volleyball net in the side yard. With adults, try a progressive dinner, barbeque-style: Dips and chips at one house, hotdogs with crazy toppings at another, and good ole s’mores at a third. Lead everyone in a group grace and bless each home.
- Laugh with the fam: Let your family time be a witness to the great joy of being alive! Play games, have a bonfire in the backyard and sing songs, tell stories, and put on silly skits. Mom and Dad, you go first! But remember to keep it light!
- Pick and share something good: Even family outings can have a sense of generosity and service to others. For me, that means berry picking or apple picking at a local orchard and coming home to bake pies or muffins. Then we give away our pickings or baked goods to neighbors who would appreciate or benefit from them, especially our single and elderly friends. Better yet, invite them to come along if they are able!
- Keep the Sunday Sabbath: Even when we are “off” on vacation and traveling far from home. Find a Catholic Church, chapel, or campus ministry wherever you are and attend Sunday Mass. See if there is a local shrine nearby, then consider your Sunday an opportunity to make a short pilgrimage there.
Let us praise and give glory to God for the goodness of summertime, and the chance to take a little time off. And let us be led by the Spirit – not by taking a vacation from God, but precisely by taking a vacation with God! May we relax and recreate through Him, with Him, and in Him! And offer our thanks and praise for such a gift.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9.
©2012 Patricia W. Gohn
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Lisa Mladinich says
Pat, you explain things like no one else can. Your enthusiasm and love of the CCC and the documents of the Church are contagious. Thank you!
William O'Leary says
Pat, this is a great post. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights on what the Church might have us consider when thinking about summer vacation!
Have you are the book: The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis? If not I think you would like it very much!