Silver Foxes, eating healthy, keeping active all part of our Retirement Living section.
Recreation recreates us
Throughout the year, we treasure summer memories of hours spent at a barbeque, hikes taken on sunny days with friends or even just a few hours watching a movie with family. These pastimes are important moments in our lives, times for leisure and renewal. Recreation is not a break from our lives or who we are, it is a time when we are, in fact, re-created and better prepared to return to work and everyday tasks.
However, we can sometimes neglect the proper ordering of our free time and simply idle through the recreational hours or days we are given. Perhaps we sit in front of the television with no agenda, just flipping through the channels for hours. Or we go outside to enjoy the sunshine only to find that we have spent the majority of this time looking down at our mobile devices. Both the television and smart phones have their place, but we misuse our vacations when we look merely to distractions instead of to true recreation.
The opposite extreme of spending vacation in an idle, directionless way is to never truly take a vacation at all. For those of us who value our work, it is very tempting to take a number of work phone calls during the day or to use our mental energy thinking of tasks for our occupations, instead of truly entering into our recreation. Joseph Pieper, author of Leisure, the Basis of Culture wrote, “In our bourgeois Western world total labor has vanquished leisure. Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture — and ourselves” (Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, 1948). Pieper's words are all too descriptive of many Americans. How often do we find ourselves overly busy with work or an endless stream of activities instead of taking time to truly enjoy our vacations, to be alone with ourselves, to value times of contemplation?
If we really value the time of recreation we are given, we come to see recreation as a time of renewal, a time to be “re-created” by Our Creator. After all, when we take a vacation, we do not take a holiday from who we are as Christians — sons and daughters of God. The Lord is with us in our summer activities as we choose how to spend our time. If we truly let Him, He continues to lead us during these times on our vocational paths, to grant us graces, to help form us as we strive to grow in holiness.
Pope Benedict has suggested that we establish two goals for our vacation beyond relaxation: to spend time with others and to spend time with God. We can renew our relationships with others by spending purposeful time with them, whether it is over a long meal, a day trip into the country or even just an afternoon spent playing a board game. The Holy Father recommends that we remind ourselves of the Creator's presence in our lives by spending more time in nature, in recognizing the beauty of the world He has given us. Finally, he suggests using our God-given curiosity and intelligence to explore monuments to culture and to history (Federico Lombardi, SJ. Pope Benedict Offers Suggestions for Vacations, August 2011). In our area, this could mean taking a trip to Emmitsburg to visit the Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton or going into Washington, D.C., to spend time in the museums and at the monuments.
The way we choose to spend our vacations not only affects us, but also our family, friends and neighbors. Consider the fruits, for example, of planning a family vacation that focuses on time together, nature and true relaxation. Or, next time you decide to have a leisurely meal, invite a coworker or friend to cook with you, enjoying a few hours of quality conversation. The pursuit of recreation that is truly a renewal is one seed for the revitalization of our culture. Show the Lord, yourself and those around you what you truly value by how you spend your leisure time. I pray that a deepened awareness of God’s love, a renewed sense of loving care with family and friends and a heart experiencing inner peace and genuine hope will be the outcomes of your leisure time this summer.