I have memories of the bell ringing on the final day of school and the giddy feeling that the drudgery of the school year was over and the freedom of summer finally beckoned. Many of us kids looked forward to simply doing nothing for a change. After so many tests, so much studying, and hours and hours of laborious learning, we had had enough. Summer vacation could be summarized in one word: “release.”
The 80s hit of a similar name echoed this sentiment for the adult work-a-day world: “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” Put another way, the song could say, “everybody’s working for summer vacation,” for time off, for rest.
We live in a frenetic world of constant activity, a steady flow of work and things on our to do list. Emails, messages, and social media posts pile in faster than we could ever keep up with them. There’s always more to do than there is time. We often work long hours—longer than we should—to get ahead, or simply to catch-up. “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” Yet is this the best motivation?
“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Genesis 2:15)
From the very beginning of creation, we were meant to work. Work, though often very taxing and challenging, came before the Fall of Man, before sin entered the world. It’s not a punishment for wrong-doing—though the “sweat of our brow” part is (see Genesis 3:19). Our original vocation or calling is work: to “cultivate and care” for creation.
In St. Matthew’s account of the calling of the apostles (4:18-21), we see these same two aspects of work in action: Peter and Andrew are casting their nets (the active “cultivation” of the sea, in a sense), while James and John are in the boat mending their nets (“care”). Christ found them working when he called them to become “fishers of men.”
Do we then labor all week to get to the weekend? Do we labor all year to get to the summer vacation? Or do we enjoy the weekend, our vacation in order to refresh and renew ourselves for our vocation of work, whatever that might be?
Now that we’ve considered the meaning of work and rest, let’s turn to ways to make the most of vacation or time away (even the ordinary weekend).
First and most importantly, do we make the necessary effort to keep up our relationship with the Lord while on vacation? Or do we see our vacation as an excuse to let this slip? It takes a bit of additional effort when planning a vacation (or even just an ordinary weekend sometimes) to make sure that Mass is included in the plans. One helpful resource is masstimes.org (which also has a mobile app). This makes it very easy to find opportunities to attend Mass when on vacation or traveling for any reason. It even lists times for Confession and Adoration as well.
Next, do we try to keep up our good habits that we developed throughout the working year, or do we throw them to the wind, taking a vacation from virtue? For example, if we’ve made a habit of taking some time each day to pray, do we make an effort to find time for that while on vacation? Another simple example is temperance: do we throw away our efforts to live disciplined lives when it comes to food and drink and overdo it when on vacation (or really in any scenario of leisure)?
A final area for consideration is the focus of our vacation. Do we make it a priority to live charitably with our family or those we are with? Or do we let the unusual circumstances of vacation lead us to be at each others’ throats? Do we recognize the importance of resting well as a family and maintaining serenity in all circumstances or are we just looking for quick pleasures and distractions from our ordinary cares and concerns? Vacation is a wonderful time to bond as a family, so let’s take the opportunity to make it wholesome, with a spirit of service for the others, and filled with love and concern for those we’re with.
That’s how (and why) to have a good summer vacation, which—according to the prolific Catholic author, G.K. Chesterton—is the “restoring thing that, by a blast of magic, turns a man into himself.”
~ Chris Spellman