"No Vacation From A Vocation"

Apologies again for the delay in posting. Like I mentioned last week, things are getting a little hectic here. Stay tuned for more, but expect infrequency for a bit.

In the meantime, something good to consider…

As the school year comes to an end for us students (sooner rather than later for those in the US—I’ve still got 2 months!), the prospect of summer looms ever closer. We can almost smell the upcoming bout of freedom. At first it smells sweet, like the springtime that ushers it in. But inevitably our freedom to be free will grow unbearable as the summer grows unbearably hot and—without a doubt—long. All that we had planned to do will go out the window in the end, and we’ll be back to school in the fall without much of a sense of achievement. Almost suddenly, it seems, our summer evaporates from us and all we are left with is a lessened vigor for studies and work come September. This might be a bit dramatic, I admit, but such sentiment is what usually defines my summers and I’m sure most can relate…

Two things become evident in such a reflection as this: first, the place of ‘freedom’ in our lives and its true and false implications; secondly, the import of the age-old maxim that “You can’t take a vacation from your vocation.”

Although one could talk about human freedom to no end, a critical point of what it means to be truly ‘free’ can be seen in the summer experience above. In the beginning, we equate freedom with being able to choose something (e.g. not studying, laying on the beach, drinking margaritas, etc.). Then, we suddenly find that through our free choices we have somehow become entangled in a web of laziness and inactivity which, although it was formerly serving the good of mental and physical refreshment for the coming year, is really keeping us from wanting to work at all. We go from being ‘free’ to being quite enslaved and somnolent. In the hope of attaining true freedom, we completely miss it.

The resolution to this simple mystery of summer-time planning—and surely life in general—comes when we consider the “no vacation from a vocation” idea. If our fundamental vocation in life is to holiness, which we recognize as the unchanging teaching of the Church and of its Head, Jesus Christ, then we can quickly affirm that anything making us fail in virtue or our acquisition thereof is not an appropriate means of relaxation and, therefore, will hinder us from being truly free. Certainly this means not doing things that are objectively evil just because we have the time. But it also means not doing things that are good and right in themselves to an excessive degree. This is all pretty commonsensical, I’m sure, but no matter how many times you hear it, how often do you just blow it off?

With a couple whole months of time to either grow or slacken in our primary vocation to holiness, it’s worth considering just how we will plan to avoid instances of laziness and to encounter opportunities for genuine Christian growth throughout the summer. Certainly, the Sacraments provide a sure foundation for any discipline; in them we encounter Christ himself, who is the divine Logos and Understanding of the Father. The summer is surely a time to deepen our appreciation of Christ’s role as the mediator of all truth and revelation, which will in turn deepen our resolve to learn and study well when school time does pick up again. If summer is meant to refresh our minds and bodies for the work of the Lord, then we ought not to forget the Lord in the midst of our relaxation.

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    # by Andrea - May 21, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    Great post. I agree that sometimes we think when school ends, our vocation to being a student ends, but really we are always a student in that we are always called to continually grow in the faith.

    Thanks for the post!

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    # by Andrew Haines - May 22, 2008 at 6:48 AM

    Obviously my emphasis on Pope Benedict XVI as both exemplar of "student" and "teacher" fits well with your insight. He is a great person to look to for a real understanding of what it means to be a holy human being in search of divine Truth.

    On the micro-level, though, it seems that such profound examples of charity-driven learning are few and far between. The mission of the Catholic university--and Catholics at the universities across America--is precisely to be that model of studious virtue that the Holy Father so well models.

    Thanks for reading!