“Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport. But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” - Pope Francis
This past weekend happened to be an off-campus weekend here at seminary, which means exactly what it sounds like. One of my brother seminarians and I decided to visit some friends at Kansas State (don’t worry, Fort Hays friends, I plan to see you all during my next free weekend). As we were there, we were both alarmed, if not entirely surprised, to hear that many of our friends were busy on Sunday and would be unable to hang out or join us for dinner. Both my friend and I are big advocates of holy leisure, of finding ways to live out that necessary relaxation described so well by our Holy Father above in a way which reinvigorates us to more diligently seek God in our work and prayer. As we were discussing this on the ride back to Conception, my friend mentioned that he had found it helpful to do on Sundays only that which he could imagine doing in Heaven, or thought of more simply, that which he would be willing to do everyday for the rest of his life. I believe upon reflection that this is the ideal we should be pursuing, though like many ideals it may be impossible to perfectly attain. This is our opportunity to take part in recreation, literally calling to mind God’s re-creation by imitating His resting on the seventh day.
A common mistake our culture has made is that we have so much leisure time that we end up having none. We fill our schedule with meetings, practices, games, concerts, performances, tournaments, binge watches, and whatever other corruption of leisure we can find. We start out by enjoying a new show we found, but then it devolves into an obsession that we finish each episode or season before the new one comes out. We start out by enjoying a beer or two on a Friday evening, but then it devolves into a compulsion to go out every weekend, perhaps even more than once each weekend. We start out by enjoying a game of basketball, but then it devolves into daily practices, dieting, reshuffling our schedules, and conditioning. Leisure ceases to be leisure the moment it becomes mandatory or imposed.
One of the critical ways in which God separated mankind from lower animals was through the gift of our free will. We are to cherish, nurture, and defend that gift throughout our lives. We tarnish it with every addiction that we allow to enter our lives. We often hear that we are to use objects and love people, but I think one area in which we notably fail in this regard is that we would rather commit all of our time, thoughts, and energy toward our hobbies than our supposedly loved ones. These are all ways in which we cross the line from holy leisure into compulsion. Once our leisure activities cease to become distractions and instead become new forms of work themselves, we have missed the mark.
This brings us back to that idea of what would we truly be willing to do each day for the rest of our lives. If watching a couple episodes on Netflix is what will recharge your batteries and bolster you for the rest of the week, then go ahead. If it’s a game of basketball, a walk in the park, a nice dinner with family, watching football with friends, or just alternating between taking naps and reading a good book, then do that. But do it because it’s what you actually want to do rather than because it’s something else that you feel the need to get done. I plan to be in Hays the weekend of October 21st-23rd. I hope that when I’m there, I get to hang out with everyone, but I hope even more that if any of you do happen to turn down an invitation to hang out with me on Sunday, your excuse is “I have something better to do” not “I have something else I have to do.”