The following editorial titled “This summer, don’t … Six things to avoid this summer as you seek to grow closer to God, spend time with family and recharge before fall begins again,” appeared in the June 3 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Ind. It was written by the newspaper’s editorial board.
For the church, both nationally and internationally, this summer is the calm before the storm, so to speak, as we prepare for a fall filled with Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the United States, the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the second part of the two-part Synod of Bishops on the family. How, then, to make the most of the relative quiet while we are able? Addressing the problem conversely, here are six ways not to spend these coveted summer months:
Don’t stash yourself behind a screen. Though we didn’t know it then, life was relatively easy when televisions were the only threat to a game of summer-evening tag. The portable supercomputers each of us now carries around in our pockets are incredible sources of power and knowledge, but they’re too often also time-sucking sources of mindless entertainment and distraction. This summer, set boundaries with your devices and with your communication. Seek affirmation face to face rather than virtually. Break bad tech habits and create new, healthier ones. In his message for this year’s World Day of Communications (May 17), Pope Francis wisely said: “The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.”
Don’t face inward. Most likely there is a lot on your summer to-do list that has to do with you: hobbies you want to focus on, vacations you want to take. This summer, though, what if we channeled Pope Francis and sought out the “encounters” in life? Consider spending one extra hour in the company of elderly loved ones, especially if they’re in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Offer to baby-sit one morning a week for a busy mom who needs a break. Seek to do for others. The moments when we look outside ourselves are when we grow.
Don’t become spiritually complacent. Find God in the written word this summer. Prepare for the World Meeting of Families by reading “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” Commit to attending eucharistic adoration one hour each week. If you’re spending a lot of time in the car, consider praying a rosary as a family or by yourself. Or perhaps simply open and close each leg of travel with the sign of the cross and a short prayer to St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers. Even small gestures can create space for prayer and gratitude.
Don’t skip Mass. It’s a no-brainer, but make it a priority to get to Mass, even and especially when traveling. There’s no better way to communicate the importance of the faith to your children and grandchildren than by spending a sunny, beach-perfect morning inside a church.
Don’t be unrealistic. Maybe this summer isn’t right for the trip to Europe or two-week beach vacation. Be realistic about budget and time constraints, remembering, with a spirit of gratitude, to prioritize what is really important: quality time with loved ones and with God.
Don’t overdo. Pope Francis often has stressed the importance of cultivating “a healthy sense of leisure.” Rekindle the pleasures of art and literature, he advised. Spend time playing and relaxing. We agree, and we hope our Holy Father, too, sets aside some time this summer to recharge before the fall. In a talk to the Roman Curia in December, Pope Francis said, “Rest … must be taken seriously: In spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that ‘there is a time for everything.'”
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