Taking a vacation during the summer holidays can be difficult. Long lines at the airport and more cars on the road are often a cause of frustration. But it can all be worth it when you realize that rest and recreation can help improve your spiritual life.
So whether you’re planning a vacation or a “staycation,” here’s three tips to make your summer a bit more virtuous.
Tip #1: Play
While most people think of play as an activity for children, the fact is that adults can benefit as well. In his essay “Oxford from Without,” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”
Psychologists and sociolgists agree that play helps us to connect with others and the world around us. In addition to relieving stress and triggering the release of endorphins, which promote an overall sense of well-being, play assists in our development of social skills. For instance, when we play team sports, we learn about the importance of patience, trust and cooperation. Games like chess and Monopoly, show us that our choices have consequences and that good sportsmanship is important. Play also stimulates the imagination, making us better problem solvers.
Finally, play fosters empathy and compassion. These traits are important if we hope to grow in holiness. Not only do they make us more Christ-like, they also help us to be better preachers of the Gospel.
Tip #2: Rest
Ours is a busy and hectic world. But what is the point of activity without moments of quiet and leisure?
Leisure is often equated with idleness, but that is not how it is understood in the Catholic tradition. Leisure is not the same thing as laziness. Instead, to engage in leisure is to refrain from work for the purpose of resting one’s soul.
“Now just as weariness of the body is dispelled by resting the body, so weariness of the soul must needs be remedied by resting the soul: and the soul’s rest is pleasure,” notes St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., in the Summa (ST, II.II, Q168, 2).
Leisure is something we have to let happen, for it is in moments of leisure and rest that we are able to truly focus on what is important. It is then that our anxieties can be dispelled, and our priorities realigned. Leisure helps us to put our life in order, to ponder and reflect. Some might even say that leisure is a foretaste of the beatific vision, when we contemplate the divine. No wonder inspiration often strikes during times of leisure, resulting in beautiful works of poetry, music and art.
Tip #3: Pray
Just as play and rest are important for spiritual growth, it should come as no surprise that so too, is prayer. Taking a break from work and school doesn’t mean taking a break from God. So consider praying a rosary while walking on the beach, or reading Sacred Scripture while perched on a mountaintop. And although it’s not always easy to find a Mass while on the road, it’s essential if we want to be good Christians. We must receive the Lord in word and sacrament if we are to share Him with others.
Have a great summer! And don’t forget to make it a virtuous one.