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Pastor's Letters

TRUE LEISURE

Updated: Oct 8

Have you ever come home after vacation more exhausted than you left? Much of it might depend on your age,

but whether young or old, I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. And while this year may have shortened or even cancelled your vacation plans, I want to use the opportunity to look at it with a fresh set of eyes.



Plenty of destinations promise you memories and fun, and some come with a hefty price tag. There’s nothing

wrong with that in itself, but when do they deliver?



In his famous work, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper retrieves the understanding of the term leisure

from the ancient Greeks. Often, in our day, leisure is seen as the opposite of work. It is those times we “veg out”

and “recharge”, avoiding labor so as to build up a reserve to go back into the daily grind. But the classical understanding was much richer for the Greeks, leisure entailed meaningful activity.



Many activities will vary in meaning depending on your temperament and talents. You know whether your kids

would prefer the zoo or the aquarium, the pool or the lake, the beach or the park. I figured out, pretty quickly,

why I preferred space camp to basketball camp (while avoiding both). Achieving proper rest and leisure in your

life, and the life of your family, entails raising the brave question of what you all find meaningful. It’s a risky

question, but if you are looking for true rest nothing else will do.



This meaningful activity does not need to be economical it’s not a job after all. Nor does it need to turn out a tangible handson product, though for many of us getting our hands dirty with paint or sculpture could be more restful than sitting on the couch all day. Ultimately, writes Pieper, the activity we’re talking about entails contemplation. We can be intimidated at that word, thinking that we’re not contemplating all that much unless we’re with St. Teresa of Avila achieving divine ecstasy in the eighth mansion. But mystics like Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross insisted that contemplation was a recurring activity for any soul in a state of grace (see Thomas Dubay’s wonderful summary The Fire Within). To abide in God means to begin to see as He does and to love what we come to see as He does. And this contemplation can be and will be infused even in the midst of ordinary circumstances.



We are invited to true contemplation and true restful leisure at every meaningful moment of the day, from watching the campfire burn down late into the evening to watching the children play capture the flag. Nor do you need to be on the sidelines we are invited to contemplate in the midst of the action! It may not be productive in any sense that your boss would notice, your family would notice you might even despair of what little it seems to do. But whatever the results, “it is the time we spend with our rose, that makes the rose valuable”.



Have you ever come home after vacation more exhausted than you left? Much of it might depend on your age,

but whether young or old, I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. And while this year may have shortened or even cancelled your vacation plans, we have all had the opportunity for rest, reflection, and contemplation. We’ve had the chance at true leisure. And even if you’ve had to settle for simpler ways to enjoy life and family, Blaise Pascal encourages us even as he warns us that many travelers take grandiose trips simply to have something to talk about when they get back. Perhaps this idea of contemplating to yourself amidst the ordinary things of life seems difficult, pretentious, strange, or even a bit boring. Whatever the problems of contemplating in our day to day lives, it beats the alternative. G.K. Chesterton warns that “if a man does not talk to himself, it is because he is not worth talking to”. The Lord encourages us to consider the true leisure that is immediately accessible in any situation, so long as we are rooted in Him:

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his

splendor was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:2829




Fr. John Paul Walker, OP

St. Mary Parish  | 5 Hillhouse Ave New Haven, CT 06511 | (203) 562-6193 | church@stmarysnewhaven.org

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