Monday, February 14, 2011

The Proper Role of Rest/Leisure

This is often a tough subject in living a Christian life. It is obvious that we need rest because of the limitations of our minds and bodies, but how much is too much and what types of leisurely activities are acceptable? These are tough questions that require prudential judgment. Here are some reflections on rest and leisure from Francis Fernandez's In Conversation with God:
As we carry out our duties, as we generously go about our professional work, as we unstintingly use up so much of our energy in apostolic initiatives and undertakings of service to others, it is natural that fatigue appears as an almost inseparable companion. Far from complaining about this inescapable reality, a reality that is common to all of us, we have to learn to rest close to God and to exercise ourselves constantly in that way of thinking.

No one understands our tiredness better than our Lord, because He himself was constantly in situations similar to our own. We must learn to recover our strength close to him. Come to me, he says to us, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. We make our burden lighter when we unite our tiredness to that of Christ, offering it up for the redemption of souls. We will find it helps us if we live charity in a purposefully pleasant way towards those around us, even if at those particular times we find it a little more difficult to do so. And we must never forget that the use of leisure also is an activity that we must sanctify. Those periods of diversion should not be isolated inertial gaps in our lives, or be seen as the chance to allow ourselves some purely selfish compensation for our exertions. Love does not take holidays.

Even our moments of weariness should not be useless. Only after our death will we know how many sinners we have helped to save by offering up our tiredness. Only then will we understand that our forced inactivity and our sufferings can be of more use to our neighbor than our most effective deeds of service.

Tiredness teaches us to be humble and to live charity better. We discover at times like these that we cannot do everything, and that we need other people. Allowing ourselves to be helped is a wonderful way of learning humility. We understand that any help we can give to those we see overworked is always a great sign of charity.

The Christian considers life to be an immensely beneficial gift, which does not really belong to him and which he has to look after and be responsible for. We have to live the years that God wants, and go on to complete the task that He has entrusted us with. As a consequence, for God’s sake and for the sake of other people, we must observe the norms of prudence in caring for our own health and that of the people who in any way depend on us. Among these norms is the one that leisure be properly employed to refresh the spirit and strengthen the health of mind and body.

It has been said that to rest is not to do nothing it is to relax in activities which demand less effort. Leisure provides as opportunity for interior enrichment. It often presents an occasion for doing more apostolate, for fostering a friendship, etc. We should not confuse rest with laziness.

The same norm should guide our leisure as guides our work. Through it we should be able to show our love for God and for our neighbor.

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