If I had to pick the ideal leisure activity, it would be surfing. I only tried surfing once.
And I broke my rib.
But the thing is, I had an inexperienced teacher, and until I broke my rib I was doing pretty well. I skateboarded in high school (from here to there) so I have balance. I think as long as I learn how to avoid letting the ocean waves ram the surfboard into my rib cage, things will be just fine.
So now I just need to get stationed in our convent in Hawaii… (Please join me in prayer for this very important intention).
Of course, the fact that I consider surfing, a highly active sport, a form of leisure says a bit about our culture. Perhaps a more widely accepted definition of leisure would be those activities that allow us the time to “stop and stare” as William Henry Davies writes in the poem, “Leisure.”
Leisure activities in today’s society, whether it be surfing or just stopping and staring, are usually relegated to weekends and vacation time. We work and we get time off to play and never the twain shall meet.
Now that I am in the convent, I have the luxury of regular prayer time set aside in the day. At first I thought that prayer is the only leisure time that I would need, but I’ve come to see that prayer, although it is vital and can be thought of as the highest form of leisure, is not the only leisure time that is needed for human thriving.
And I have some pretty good allies in this way of thinking. In fact, Saint John Paul II was probably the most outspoken pope in recent years on the importance of leisure. The word “leisure” pops up 64 times in his speeches and writings on the Vatican website. John Paul II also listed “leisure” as an important human right among many others in his speech to the UN in 1979. And this is not surprising, this was a pope who made over 200 undercover visits to the ski slopes while he was at the Vatican.
So, I wanted to share with you some great quotes from Saint John Paul II and others to inspire you to punctuate your life with more leisure time (particularly on Sundays when we are called to rest, but also throughout your week):
1. Leisure Restores and Renews Us:
Through the recreation and leisure made possible by travel, people are restored and renewed, body and spirit. They return home to family and work with a new perspective and enthusiasm for life. (Saint John Paul II)
2. Leisure Encourages Creativity and Insight:
Leisure implies an attitude of total receptivity toward, and willing immersion in, reality; an openness of the soul, through which alone may come about those great and blessed insights that no amount of “mental labor” can ever achieve. (Josef Pieper)
3. A Culture of Work Must Be Balanced with a Culture of Leisure:
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)
4. Work and Rest is the Natural Rhythm of Human Life:
Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2184)
5. Nature Preaches Sermons, Leisure Allows Us to Listen:
Let everything in creation draw you to God. Refresh your mind with some innocent recreation and needful rest, if it were only to saunter through the garden or the fields, listening to the sermon preached by the flowers, the trees, the meadows, the sun, the sky, and the whole universe. (St. Paul of the Cross)
6. Fun is a Requirement of a Healthy Mind:
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. … Consequently, the remedy for weariness of soul must needs consist in the application of some pleasure, by slackening the tension of the reason’s study. … man’s mind would break if its tension were never relaxed. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
7. The Center of Leisure Should Be Christ:
Leisure time is something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world; each of us knows this. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus – the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul. (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
8. Sometimes Leisure Requires Getting Away:
Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mk 6:31)
9. Leisure is Meant to Be Light-Hearted:
Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern….[However,] to do them at all, we must somehow do them as if they were not. It is a serious matter to choose wholesome recreations: but they would no longer be recreations if we pursued them seriously. (C.S. Lewis)
10. Leisure Prepares Us for Heaven:
It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. (G.K. Chesterton)
So, relax. Play. Spend some leisurely time doing nothing and you can begin by taking a deep breath and watching this poem (all the way to the end before madly clicking another link!)
Feel free to share your favorite holy leisure activities in the comments.