Some years ago I was reading some words of Pope Benedict XVI on summer. I was struck by their depth and reflection on the importance of summer vacation. The sense of the article was to “remember to take God on vacation.”
He said (on July 18, 2010) that “we are already in the heart of the summer, at least in the northern hemisphere…. This is the time in which the schools are closed and in which most vacations are concentrated. It is therefore a favorable moment to give first place to what is effectively the most important thing in life, that is to say, listening to the Word of God.” Reflecting further on the Gospel for the feast day of St. Martha (which was just celebrated on July 29), he said further that “this Gospel passage is very important at vacation time, because it recalls the fact that the human person must work, must involve himself in domestic and professional concerns, to be sure, but he has need of God before all else, who is the interior light of love and truth.”
Growing up in the Midwest, my memories of vacation time include trips to the Ozarks (in southern Missouri northern Arkansas) with stops in Branson, Missouri and places like “Silver Dollar City.” Other trips took us to the Wisconsin Dells. My grandparents often went with us, and I always remember that my grandfather would ask all of us in the car to pray for a safe trip, and when we got back to Springfield (usually coming up the old Route 66 in his Chevy Bel Air!), he would ask us to pray in thanksgiving for a safe trip and a good vacation!
As the month of August is upon us, one of the principal months of vacation (in Italy, for example, the whole month of August is vacation and family time and is centered around the celebration of the Assumption), it would be well to remember the importance of vacation as an important change of scene for all of us, but above all, to make it a time of faith, where the word of God does have a place in our lives for reading and reflection, perhaps even more than in our daily life. It is not difficult to find a local parish church for Mass when we travel, so we can gather for the Lord’s day to pray for a safe and fruitful vacation time for us and the one we love. (There is a website called MassTimes.org, where you can look up church locations and Mass schedules.)
The current culture tends to want to make us work at all times, even during vacation (this is something that I have to be aware of all of the time). The words of Pope Benedict reflect on this reality as well, when he says that “Everything else will pass away and be taken away from us, but the Word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily activity. Without love, even the most important activities lose value and do not bring joy.”
Let us pray for safe travels for us in these summer days, and that they will be times of reflection on our faith, as well as rest and a change of pace in our sometimes frenetic lives. Thanks to all involved in all aspects of the mission of our local Church in preaching and teaching the good news in this time of the “New Evangelization,” and enjoy a well-deserved vacation! I pray that the vacation days of this summer will be days of rest and faith where the Word of God does indeed accompany all.