Having a family can feel like you need to give of yourself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is true whether you spend most of your waking hours at your career or at home with the kids. And yet, this feeling is not limited to family life. It is part of the life of service to which every Christian is called.
Imagine the daily life of a priest in a typical suburban parish. Every minute of their days seems filled with celebrating Sacraments, saying Masses, and endless phone calls and meetings. Priests typically have more “spiritual children” than any layperson could ever have. Religious brothers and sisters are not exempt, either. The Benedictine philosophy of work, for example, is 8 hours of work, 8 hours of prayer, and 8 hours of rest. (Think prayer is not demanding work? You try praying for 8 hours.) In short, the life of a Christian always requires giving until it hurts.
This does not mean that leisure time or relaxation is bad (unless it's totally self-centered!). Leisure time spent in strengthening our relationship with family and friends can renew our spirits and bring joy to our life. Leisure time spent developing our talents can bring us closer to the person God wants us to be. It can also help us to enjoy God’s creation. For example, Pope John Paul II frequently spent time in the great outdoors, hiking and skiing in the natural beauty that God created.
Leisure time is actually a wonderful gift from God. On the seventh day of creation of the world, God rested and showed us that rest was good (Gen 2:2-3). Rest is necessary to restore our physical and mental health. You could almost call it a duty. Jesus himself once commanded the apostles, “Come away … and rest a while” (Mk 6:31).
Rest is not the same as “me-time,” which today’s culture relentlessly attempts to convince us we need. Can you imagine telling Mother Teresa that she just needed a little “me-time” at the mall, with a coffee-shop latte or a fast-food burger? True leisure is also not slumping on the couch watching hour after hour of questionable television shows that leave us feeling drained rather than rested. Healthy, holy rest rejuvenates us so that we can resume work more energetically and cheerfully, ready to share with others what God has given us.
A version of this article appeared first on Catholic365.com.
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