|This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
I hope that summertime has brought some welcome rest and recreation for all of you. I particularly pray that you have been kept safe from the serious consequences of the recent, extremely hot weather. Let us, during these days, pray for our sisters and our brothers for whom the extreme heat poses some special problem.
No doubt, many of you have already enjoyed the blessings of a summer vacation but, for many, the opportunity is coming ever-nearer before the Labor Day/back-to-school mentality sets in. And then there are those of us who delight in winter vacations, those of us who would rather deal with the heat than with the snow and the cold.
In any event, what makes vacation for most people, as is correct, is the ability to spend “quality time” with family and/or friends. Good company is far more important to a fine vacation than is good weather because good company can compensate easily for a lot of other difficulties and it is the reality of love, present and active in our lives, that brings true joy.
Bringing Jesus with us on vacation
If you and I really love Jesus Christ in a personal way, the most natural thing in the world would be to spend extra time with Him during days of vacation, even as a family or even as a group of friends. In this sense, how we spend our vacation time can imitate how we spend Sunday — Blessed John Paul the Great said that the best measure of someone’s faith is how they spend Sunday, as the Lord’s day. Thus, our vacation time could also serve well as a measure of our faith.
If we really love Jesus in a personal way, nothing would be more natural than spending some extra time in prayer during vacation, for instance, making sure a family Rosary got said, if even every day, finding the nearest parish and attending Mass (in most vacation areas there are both early morning Masses and Masses scheduled later in the day — for those for whom vacation means sleeping-in), and/or stopping to visit local churches and holy sites and spending some quiet moments with our Lord before the tabernacle.
If one were to go on a family vacation and not spend that much time with family, one would naturally come back feeling guilty — some of the joy of the vacation would have been lost. The same is true for our relationship with Jesus. If, after vacation, we realize that we have spent less time with Him, in the last week or so, than usual, and we really do love Him in a personal relationship, then we would be disappointed with ourselves, for not having taken the opportunity to offer precious time to Him as our gift — for which He would repay us one hundred fold, as He always does.
Likewise, taking time for reading — Scripture reading, spiritual reading, reading for our own instruction in the faith — also is very helpful on vacation, where we can pause and reflect in leisure about what we read.
Benefits of finding the holy time on vacation
Since many tourists find themselves on vacation in unfamiliar settings, acts of charity on vacation may be more frequently offered in a situation where we have the time to help someone without stress.
If our vacation time is truly a holy time, which has taken reverent account of the presence of Jesus, besides physical and psychological refreshment, spiritual refreshment will be the Lord’s gift to us, to help us through the joys and the tribulations of the coming year. A vacation, as memorable for a more intense experience of the presence of Christ in addition to what we see or how late we sleep in, would be for many a different kind of vacation, where what is deepest in our humanity arrives more intensely at its fulfillment with Jesus.
I hope that these reflections will be of help if you still await your summer vacation, or some future winter vacation, or even next year. Vacation is a time to be with Jesus, family, and friends more intensely, rather than a time to step apart from what is most deeply human in each of us and always longing to be satisfied.
Thank you for reading this. Please have a healthy, safe, and blessed rest of the summer. Praised be Jesus Christ!