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Faith in Action: Relax, refresh, recharge

A vacationer is seen relaxing at a beach in New York. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Many priests will tell you that summer doesn’t really begin for them until late June or early July. That’s probably true for you as well.

The more relaxing summer season starts when school ends (both students and staff) and parish meetings wrap up. This leaves July as the best opportunity to get away and enjoy time with family and friends before planning for the fall begins in mid-August.

That’s been my schedule for most of my 51 years as a priest, and it’s especially true this year. I just finished what was a very good first year as chaplain at St. John’s High School, and I loved the opportunity to be involved in the lives of more than 1,200 young people through Masses, retreats, confessions, peer ministry programs, and other efforts to bring young people closer to God.

It was a part-time job for me, but the year overall was very busy. Before I retired from Catholic Charities last year, one of my friends told me that I would have more pastoral duties than ever. He was right.

I had more marriages, baptisms, and especially funerals than in recent years. The number of funerals I celebrated increased exponentially. Many were for people in their 80s and 90s, and being close to that age myself, they were often individuals and families I have enjoyed long relationships with.

I love being able to serve families at such precious times in their lives, being able to say yes to those seeking the sacraments, counseling, and other kinds of support. Baptisms, weddings, and funerals are at the top of the list.

I admit, however, that I am looking forward to a break. I’m a little more tired than I was say 10 years ago, and to be honest, probably not quite as sharp. A few weeks away will give me a chance to refresh the spirit, recharge the batteries, and be ready to get going again in September.

Vacations are important, and I hope you can take one this summer. The word “vacate” is part of vacation. We vacate our jobs and other responsibilities for a week or two. We follow the example of our God, who rested on the seventh day, and of Jesus, who went off by himself or with his close friends to rest.

Breaks are important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. They offer rest and relaxation, but also a chance to be fully present to loved ones. They are also opportunities to think about the most important things in our lives and to reflect upon where we want to change or grow.

I look forward to relaxing with family and friends. I look forward to reading a little more, perhaps a good novel or autobiography. And I look forward to a better prayer life, which is typically the case for me. My time for God is more focused and less rushed.

May God grant us all a chance this summer to pause, catch our breath, refresh our spirits, and enjoy the gift of those we love.

I can’t wait for my vacation, and I can’t wait to get back to St. John’s and my pastoral duties when I return. I pray that you have a great summer, a refreshing vacation, and can’t wait to get back to the life God has given you.

(Msgr. John Enzler serves as the mission advocate of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is a chaplain at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School in Washington. He writes the Faith in Action column for the archdiocese’s Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)