For the competitive workaholics among us (Guilty as charged, Your Honor!), the following from Armand Nigro, S.J. may give us pause for thought:
Both Jesus and Francis of Assisi revolutionized their world after being on this earth a very few years. Neither of them worked frantically for long hours, with no time to allow the Spirit to renew them. Jesus spent time socially over meals, relaxed with intimate friends, prayed with his apostles, secured time alone with himself and his Father.
Francis also had leisure time and prayer time integrated into his ministry. The roads to San Damiano, St. Mary of the Angels and Mount Alverno would have provided him with long, scenic walks, environments and time to allow God to touch him intimately.
The spirituality of leisure unfolds for us the relationship between wholeness and holiness of life and our lifestyle. 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.
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.
I am concerned over the imbalance in our lives in the spiritualities of ministry, leisure and play. In order to truly allow God to create in us a new spirit, to be truly impelled by the Spirit, I ask each of us to consider the following:
• Note the internal pressure I have to be busy, to appear busy, to talk about being busy. Let go of it!
• Note the number of times I place the blame for my overwork on people and events outside of myself. Accept responsibility for your own busy-ness.
• Note how often I choose entertainment in order to ‘unwind’ and don’t leave enough time for leisure that re-creates the spirit.
• Identify the places, people or activities which help me get in touch with God.
• Create leisure moments for myself daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Perhaps in our culture these moments need to be planned with more care than many of our other activities.
At all times of our lives, leisure is essentially an attitude toward life, and therefore can be present in the most active among us. I guess what I am challenging us to develop is a leisured approach to activity, which will only develop when there are times when leisure is more intensely lived.