Leisure, A Good Form of Penance?

John Veltri’s classic manual for spiritual direction, Orientations, is available online here.

One of his brief essays that some of our culture might find challenging asks the question above. After our last big campus ministry event of the year, I found myself pretty juiced when I got home last night. One busy day, and did I adopt the attitude of Saint Francis, or of the Lord? Or did this convict me?

Our extreme dedication to ministry is the religious woman’s version of the husband working overtime for the family and ending up a stranger to his own wife or children. We can become strangers to our God and lose a sense of the Spirit’s activity in our lives and actually miss the heart of Christianity when leisure is missing from our lives.

Leisure is defined as something a bit different that filling up non-work time with a lot of activities that seem like work. This is how Fr Veltri calls it:

The definition of leisure is that time and space which we carry in our lives to get in touch with the ultimate. Notice, leisure is not synonymous with nor does it embrace entertainment or recreational activities when these activities fill our space with things other than God. Leisure does include those activities, places and persons which put us in touch with our God.

Toward the end of our pancake study break last night, about thirty of the students started up a line dance. I had to admire the spontaneity. The occasional paper airplane soaring over the steppers just added a bit to the delight.

Did the dance and the folding up of our placemats put them in touch with God? My take is yes. Fifteen minutes later as we were wiping down tables and bagging up trash, I noticed heartfelt hugs and backslaps. I passed by as one of our seminarians-to-be was getting some well wishes and promises for prayer from one of his classmates. They were realizing this might have been the last social event at which this particular gathering of people would ever congregate.

And with finals week reaching its hump day, the leisure was set aside. But hopefully just for awhile.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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