Monday, 16 August 2010


Some can't wait for holiday time to come. They feel stale and weary and need time to stand and stare without feeling guilty. Holidays break the routine of daily life, relieve the pressure and give us the chance to go to different places and do other things.

But there are also those who can't be persuaded to take a holiday. As for standing and staring...for them that's a shear waste of time. There's too much to do, and they think they can't be spared. They feel uncomfortable about taking time off. With this kind of mentality they become like hamsters on a treadmill, compelled to keep moving, simply to stay in the same place. From childhood they may have been told that the devil makes work for idle keep busy! They feel guilty if they're not always doing something useful.

But I wonder if 'Standing and Staring' is really such a waste of time. The poet, William Henry Davies, certainly didn't think so. He realised the need for us to be still and look if we're ever going to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Those who are constantly in a hectic rush will notice nothing. That will impoverish the quality of their lives. And so Davies concludes:
"A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."

It's not just a question of noticing the world around us. We can be so busy doing things for people that we literally have no time for the people themselves -to be with them and enjoy their company. But if we don't make time for each other we will find that love and friendship will grow cold and we will drift apart.

The same is true with our Love for God. That's why the Psalmist urges us, (46. 10),
"Be still and know that I am God!"

It's through stillness, listening, talking, or simply being together and silently enjoying each other's company that we draw close to one another.

And that's the point of observing the Sabbath day of rest. This compassionate law was intended to give people, and even the beasts of burden, such as oxen and horses, a break from the rigours of weekday work. We're given a chance to re-build our strength. This break, this change in the rhythm of life, gives us quality time for God and each other. It's wonderful that when God's involved holidays become holy days.

The change in pace of holiday-time gives us the opportunity to develop hobbies which enrich our lives, and this makes us more interesting to other people. There's much truth in the saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." We certainly do become crashing bores, if we can only talk about our own work and can take no interest in other people. And if we have no outside interests won't we be lost when retirement puts an end to our employment?

Peter and I had a retired aunt who used to go on holidays with our widowed mother. When our aunt returned home she would give an annual talk to a woman's group about the adventures and mishaps they'd experienced while on holiday. No one was certain whether she was simply accident-prone or looked for trouble in order to provide material for her talks. Poor mother certainly had to brace herself for the unexpected.

We brothers used to be very active in the Scout Movement. We'd cycle off with our camping kit. At dusk on one occasion we pitched our tent on an open common. Early in the morning, while we were still sleeping, we were roused by a loud, steady thumping outside. Peeping through our tent flaps we saw an enormous carthorse trotting around our tent. We feared it might take a short cut across us and our tent!

On another occasion, when our troop was on its annual camp, we senior scouts had to break camp unexpectedly one night. We then had to carry all our equipment on our backs and hike along a route flashed to us in Morse Code. In the dark we had to construct a rope bridge across a river, make a stretcher on which we were to carry one of the troop to the other side of the river. We dropped the poor fellow into the rushing water and the fast current carried away his trousers! So, he had to continue the hike without them. Fortunately for him all right-minded people were tucked up in bed and no one saw him.

Now advancing age has slowed us down. When one of us is able to cross the Atlantic for a holiday we're happy relaxing together, playing chess, listening to music....Most of all, we simply enjoy being together.

All of us feel fresher and better able to carry on after a break from the routine of our daily work. Recreation becomes re-creation or renewal, and so is not a waste of time.

Jesus realised this. When the apostles returned from gaining pastoral experience He urged them to come to a quiet place and rest,
"The apostles gathered around Jesus and told Him all they had done and taught. He said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure, even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves,"
(Mark 6. 30-33).

If they needed to relax and recoup their energy, so too, did Jesus. We can easily forget that the constant demands made upon Him must have left Him feeling physically and emotionally drained. He needed time and space to be still and quiet, to rest His mind and body, to rest in the Lord. And as He stopped and stared He was able to notice the ripening harvest, the lilies of the field, sheep and shepherds... and so much of daily life, which He was able to use in the powerful imagery of the parables of the Kingdom.

I hope I will always remember that being still and relaxing is an essential part of a well-balanced life. This is vital to my meeting God and my growing closer to Him. I must not only work for God, but also make time to relax with Him. Otherwise I will simply go through the motions and become zombie-like -dead inside.

Throughout the process of composing postings for our blog Peter and I have become convinced that God is to be found not only in the serious moments when we're explicitly doing His work, but also in the crazy light-hearted moments that He has provided for our refreshment. In God's world recreation becomes re-creation, holidays become holy days. With Paul's encouragement I don't need to feel guilty about wasting my time when I stand and stare,
"Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to the Father through Him,"
(Colossians 3. 17)
Isidore O.P.

Next week Fr. Peter will wonder "What happened to my prayers?"

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