Memorable vacations can be times of reflection and gratitude to God

Published: July 21, 2018

By Father Erik Pohlmeier
Director of Faith Formation

What word comes to your mind when you think of summer?

High on the list is probably “heat” and whether that is good or bad depends on where you come down on the thermostat wars. If you are like Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, then the warmer the better.

Vacation is when we hope our thoughts will be less occupied with what causes stress, and more focused on what we treasure most.

Another word high on most lists is “vacation.” For those who live by school schedules, summer means time off and chances to get away somewhere. We look forward to things slowing down a bit.

The word itself has the Latin root, “vacare,” which means to be unoccupied. That can have the literal meaning such as when we vacate a building, but there is the deeper meaning that allows vacation to be a time of renewal. Vacation is when we hope our thoughts will be less occupied with what causes stress, and more focused on what we treasure most.

It is crucial for renewal to take stock of what is most important, to slow down and look around and to soak in the love of family and friends. Of course, God understands this basic need that we have. When God commands a day of rest every week he has our good in mind. Sabbath is a word that means rest and reveals that God wants us to have a vacation every week.

The best vacations allow some time for reflection and an exercise in gratitude. St. Matthew tells us that where our treasure is we will find our heart. How about a little homework for the summer? A mental exercise can help us take better advantage of our vacation.

Make some time to sit with your thoughts. Pay attention to where your mind goes when it is unoccupied. Discover what your treasure is by following those thoughts. How long does it take before God enters the picture? Where is faith among your values? The unoccupied mind can tell us a lot if we really do pay attention.

God’s commands always have our good in mind and God knows we are easily swept away by worry and the challenges of life. Stress in life will always be eased by God’s perspective. When we remember that a God who loves us is near we find strength. When our thoughts turn toward the eternal promises of God we find hope.

Every vacation will be lacking unless God is part of your rest. This does not mean the beach should be replaced with the monastery. That grandeur of the ocean and the laughter of children are easy paths to God for those who pay attention. To worship with other tourists on Sunday can be a reminder that we are part of a large family of God.

Faith in general is not meant to be bracketed off to a certain time and place. To view summer as a time off from church is to place faith in the category of burdens to get away from. In fact, God is always present during vacation and is always inviting us to a deeper rest.

So let vacation be high on your list this summer and discover that God is waiting for you there.