Oh Canadian summer, you are God's mercy made manifest! Even in the midst of heat waves, I think many would agree that this beautiful season sure beats winter’s wind-chill (winter has a beauty all its own, of course). Life’s usually-hectic pace fades into a comparatively peaceful lull; BBQing, rekindling friendships and family ties and enjoying sunny afternoons (and later nights out) are all summer norms even for working city folk, I’m learning.
Projects are sometimes put on hold, golfing claims generous parts of schedules and the leisure-reading list gets a few more checkmarks. Each year, we look forward to “coming away to rest awhile” by taking some time for rejuvenation and re-focusing.
But, even when we are resting, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us. He doesn’t go on holiday and His inspirations aren’t stifled by our vacation schedules. In fact, He doesn’t even leave voicemail. Sometimes, we might not want to hear what is being spoken to us because it feels like work. But, in missing the boat, we are always missing out on joy.
In his Sunday Angelus address
last week from his vacation spot at Castel Gondolfo, Pope Benedict XVI said that vacation presents a time for us to “rest from our daily labours, so that we may give time to the one thing that is truly necessary in our lives — listening to the word of God in attentive stillness.”
The key word here is attentive.
This past week, I had the opportunity to listen to a talk given by Fr. Charles Nahm, an Opus Dei priest based in Toronto. Father spoke about the need to be vigilant in one’s spiritual life particularly during the summer. During his talk, I was struck by something simple: that time is a great gift and it must be maximized. When we are blessed enough to have time off from our regular work schedules, we are given the opportunity to contemplate the profound, yet simple truths of our lives.
Fr. Charles spoke about how with the gift of freedom (in this case, free time) comes the gift of responsibility (yes, responsibility is a gift!). We can choose to read spiritual books, or to consult with holy people on matters concerning the spiritual life (spiritual directors) and even to spend time building community. In short, God gives us the chance to make choices that will lead us into deeper communion with Him. And deeper communion with Him means life in abundance... sounds good, doesn't it?
In the same way, then, that we learn to write from experiencing beautiful writing and we learn to appreciate art from studying the great masters; we become holy from drawing near to examples of holiness. Summer provides the perfect opportunity to meet new members of our spiritual family; to read the lives of the saints and learn about how they allowed the Holy Spirit to make a masterpiece out of their lives and, by extension, the lives of others. Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying: "sanctify yourselves and you will sanctify society".
Vacation, then, is truly a time to re-create; a time to tap into the Creator Spirit who encourages us along our path to holiness. For what’s left of the summer, let’s pray for this attentiveness to the Holy Spirit as He continually inspires us with new ways to reach out to one another in love.
Holy Spirit, where should I channel my energies? Is there an apostolate I feel drawn towards? Are there lonely people around me who would benefit from a visit? In my busyness, which areas of my life have suffered? How can I restore balance? How have I been blind to opportunities to love?
Come Creator Spirit, come from thy bright heavenly throne,
Come take possession of our souls and make them all Thine own;
Thou who art called the Paraclete, best gift of God above,
The Living Spring, the Living Fire, Sweet Unction and True Love.
Thou Who art seven-fold in Thy grace, finger of God’s right Hand,
Thy promise teaching little ones to speak and understand.
Come with Thy blessed Light, with love our hearts inflame,
And with Thy strength which never decays, confirm our mortal frame.
Far from us drive our hellish foe, true peace unto us bring
And from all perils guide us safe beneath Thy Sacred Wing.
Through Thee may we the Father know, through Thee the Risen Son,
And Thee , O Spirit of Them both, thrice blessed Three in One.
All glory to the Father be, and to the Risen Son and same to Thee, O Paraclete while endless ages run.
Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
And Thou shalt renew the face of the Earth.
Photo credit: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters