Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

2/2/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Leisure is a part of living a fully human life and receiving the fullness of the gift of being human

It is in the hopes of recapturing this entire lost world that the Church urges that "Christians, in respect of religious freedom and of the common good of all, should seek to have Sundays and the Church's Holy Days recognized as legal holidays."  But legality alone will not transform our culture of "total work."  For that we must pray: Dona nobis Domine otium sanctum!  Lord give us holy leisure!

Being Still,leisure, is a part of being human

Being Still,leisure, is a part of being human

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/2/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Leisure, rest, recreation, holiness, human, sabbath rest, new humanism, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - It is important to see not only that we moderns misunderstand the purpose of work, we also have to see that we misunderstand the notion of leisure or rest.  It is a contemporary folly to look at leisure as the mere "lack of work," something we fill exclusively or even principally with entertainment, relaxation, or vacation. 

The Christian is not given the Sabbath so that he can go to the circus with the Pagan.  "Believers," the Compendium tells us (adverting to the rise in violence in entertainment which is a sign of rising neo-Paganism) "should distinguish themselves on this day too by their moderation, avoiding the excesses and certainly the violence that mass entertainment sometimes occasions." (Compendium, No. 285)

It is also wrong to look at leisure as equivalent to relaxation, something to re-charge the batteries so we can get back to work refreshed.  Leisure must also be distinguished from idleness.  The leisure the Church and the philosopher Josef Pieper have in mind is not the leisure of the "leisure class" excoriated by Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, or the leisure of the "idle rich" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

The leisure or rest the Church has in mind is what the Cistercians called otium sanctum, a holy leisure.

Indeed, this holy leisure is worlds apart from idleness, mere relaxation, or entertainment.  It requires a devotion, discipline, and effort of its own.  This more rugged form of holy leisure is what the Trappist monk Thomas Merton appears to be grasping for when he wrote in his book The Other Side of the Mountain: the End of the Journey: "I, for one, realize that now I need more.  Not simply to be quiet, somewhat productive, to pray, to read to cultivate leisure--otium sanctum!  There is a need of effort, deepening, change and transformation."

St. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke oxymoronically of a negotissimum otium, a very busy leisure, a leisure that in Merton's words required "effort, deepening, change, and transformation."

It is a challenging task to learn how to be receptive, how to empty oneself so that one might accept something that is not one's own.  In fact, the original word from which we derive the word vacation is Latin vacatio, which means to empty oneself out.  We moderns think vacations are times we fill with things like trips.  But vacations were originally times where we emptied ourselves of things and of ourselves so that we had space for God. 

Monastic writers speak of vacare Deo, to vacate oneself for God.  Indeed, this notion is scriptural.  The Psalms speak of it: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 45(46):10) The word "be still" is (in the Latin Vulgate) vacate and in the Greek Septuagint scholasate, a form of the very word the philosophers used to describe leisure.  We might translate this Psalm as "be at leisure" or "be at rest" or "empty yourself" and know that I am God.  This notion of leisure is outside the pale of modern life, and this is why T. S. Eliot in his poem "Ash Wednesday" includes the prayer, "Teach us to sit still."  T. S. Eliot realized this is what moderns need.  We have to go to school to learn to be on vacation.

Of course, activity is not to be regarded as evil though it is ordered to leisure.  We have a duty to work.  And work has a tremendous dignity of its own.  Sometimes even activity is the prerequisite to grasping truth.  The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote the poet Robert Bridges who had asked him how he could learn to believe.  Gerard Manley Hopkins told Bridges to quit thinking about it and "give alms."  Here, it was right to recommend action over thinking. 

If one's work is properly ordered and subordinated to leisure, then everything goes along harmoniously.  Then one can pray along with the Benedictine, laborare est orare, to work is to pray.  In his book The City of God, St. Augustine seems to have grasped the balance: "The love of truth seeks a holy leisure, but the urgency of love undertakes the work that is due."

All that we have reflected upon in our last two articles on leisure, "The Recovery of Leisure" and "Regaining the Mind and Redeeming the Time," is necessary to understand so that we can grasp what the Church means when she says in her Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church "Rest from work is a right." (Compendium, No. 284).  Within this short statement is included the entire notion of the primacy of leisure or rest over work, of Mary over Martha, of the contemplative life over the active life, of intellectus over ratio, of kairos over chronos, of the intrinsic connection between leisure and rest and the divine worship, and of Augustine's "urgency of love that makes us undertake the work that is due."

The Church has institutionalized rest, and seeks to have its value recognized in our social life.  The "Lord's Day," the Christian Sabbath, is a time specifically set apart for rest.  Holidays--as the original word "Holy Day" attests--were the additional days set apart for rest, for the divine cultus or worship.  For this reason, the Christian faithful are urged to "refrain from 'engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.'" (Compendium, No. 284)  "The Lord's Day should always be lived as a day of liberation that allows us to take part in the 'festal gathering and the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven' (cf. Heb. 12:22-23), anticipating thus the celebration of the definitive Passover in the glory of heaven." (Compendium, No. 285)  "Sunday is an appropriate time for the reflection, silence, study, and meditation that foster the growth of the interior Christian life." (Compendium, No. 285)

Finally, the Church, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, recognizes that it is proper sometimes to act--to give alms and quit leisure or rest, even in those days especially set apart for leisure or rest.  The Church has learned the lesson of her Lord that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  Therefore, "[f]amily needs and service of great importance to society constitute legitimate excuses from the obligation of Sunday rest."  But even then the exception must not swallow up the rule, but must prove the rule, as the exception "must not create habits that are prejudicial to religion, family life, or health."  Sunday in particular "should be made holy by charitable activity."  The end of the worship of God ends with a commission--ite missa est.  Go!  the mass is ended, the commission is given you! That commission is what is called the missio Dei, the mission of God for the service of our brother.  Therefore, time should be devoted to "family and relatives, as well as the sick, the infirm, and the elderly." (Compendium, No. 284) 

It is in the hopes of recapturing this entire lost world that the Church urges that "Christians, in respect of religious freedom and of the common good of all, should seek to have Sundays and the Church's Holy Days recognized as legal holidays."  But legality alone will not transform our culture of "total work."  For that we must pray: Dona nobis Domine otium sanctum!  Lord give us holy leisure!

This rejection of the world of total work, the recovery of leisure over work and its relationship to divine worship, the regaining of our intellect, the redeeming of time: these are essential.  For only then shall we leave the false gods we worship and be able to receive the God who is Love.  As John Donne wrote in his poem "Break of Day":

The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.

Spare us, O Lord, from being busied men! Libera nos, Domine!

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Living Faith

St Francis DeSales Challenges Us to Live a Life of True Devotion Watch

Image of Today in our Liturgical calendar in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we remember St Francis DeSales (1567-1610). The Saints are all given as examples to emulate. They are our companions on the journey, men and women like us who responded to God's invitation to become like Jesus. They pray for us because we are joined with them in the eternal communion of love. They also put legs on the Gospel, showing us what holiness looks like.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of ... continue reading


Hey Main Stream Media - Do Your Job! Media Bias on March for Life Watch

Image of The hundreds of thousands who gatherred in Washington, DC were virtually ignored by the mainstream media because they gave a voice to children in the womb intentionally killed by procured abortion

By Catherine Contreras

What do you get when over 500,000 people attend the March for Life in Washington DC? Yup. A biased main stream media barely covering it, again. OAKLAND, CA (Catholic Online) - On the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in ... continue reading


Arlington Diocesan teachers provide English Language Learners with special support Watch

Image of Fourth-grade students work on personalized language arts activities at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington. (Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald)

By Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald

Step into Sarah Conrad's pre-kindergarten classroom at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington and you'll see the usual suspects: tiny furniture, storybooks, brightly colored posters and educational toys. But you'll also notice that laminated labels abound. ... continue reading


'Self righteousness is not going to change peoples' attitudes and save babies,' Cardinal says Watch

Image of Cardinal Sean O'Malley says that the abortion issue in the United States is a call for those of all faiths to action.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In delivering his homily at the March for Life vigil in Washington D.C., Cardinal Sean O'Malley said that indifference is the "greatest enemy" of the pro-life movement, adding that "to change people's hearts we must love them." Speaking at the Basilica of the ... continue reading


Eighth Annual Stand Up 4 Life Rally|Walk in Oakland, California! Watch

Image of Walk for Life in California

By Catherine Contreras

"If Black lives matter, they have to matter in the womb first. Because if Black lives don't matter in the womb, they don't matter anywhere else. So join us and help us speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves." - Walter B. Hoye II, Founder and President of ... continue reading


Papal Nuncio to Join Walk for Life West Coast! Watch

Image of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigaṇ

By Catherine Contreras

The Walk for Life West Coast is honored to announce that Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the Holy Father's Ambassador to the United States, will be attending the 11th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, on January 24, 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Build a Culture of Life! A Rally Cry Was Heard In Los Angeles!

Image of Pro-lifers marched in One Life LA on January 17, 2015.

By Catherine Contreras

 A Rally Cry Was Heard in Los Angeles, California, "Build a Culture of Life! A Culture That Loves Life and That Defends Life!" The Mission of OneLifeLA is to unite communities and inspire positive action through an annual event that promotes the beauty and ... continue reading


Catholics fail to practice 'responsible parenthood' when they have too many children, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis recently praised Blessed Paul VI for defending Catholic teaching against contraception. At the same time, "this does not mean a Christian must make children one after another," the Pope added. In fact, Catholics fail to practice "responsible ... continue reading


Pope Francis confirms stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia in upcoming U.S. visit Watch

Image of The papal itinerary remains in the planning stages. Organizers are already talking about appearances at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero, and even a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has confirmed that his trip to the United States this fall will include stops in Washington, D.C. and New York City, in addition to Philadelphia. Francis told the press that he wishes he could enter the U.S. through the Mexican border "as a sign of ... continue reading


Announcing Ignatius Press books at Catholic Shopping .com - Start your Catholic library today!

Image of Catholic Shopping .com is proud to announce, that we are now carrying a wide selection of Ignatius Press's most popular books.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Discriminating Catholic readers will be excited to know Catholic Shopping .com now carries a wide selection of the best books from Ignatius Press. LOS ANGELES, CA - The story of Ignatius Press is one that began over thirty years ago, and a story that has not ended ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah a second ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
4 DIRECT me in your ways, Yahweh, and teach me your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 1:14-20
14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 7:29-31
29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time has become ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 25th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Thomas
January 25: Carmelite Latinpatriarch and papal legate. Peter was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter