Learning the Lesson of Leisure

As a child, looking out the back window of our mini-van, I could see the fields of corn stretching out along either side of I-29 for miles. This could mean only two things: summer and camping! My sisters and I loved the camping adventures that would occur during the non-winter months of the Midwest. But more than just summer fun, these trips were also formative in many ways. One of the lessons we learned was the lesson of leisure.

Can one teach leisure? In one way, yes, it can be taught. However, in another way, it can’t. In some ways it is a training of the will to make choices that are in alignment of what it means to be human. Leisure also requires an inner sensitivity to ‘catch’ the inner logic of how leisure augments the experience of our humanity. True leisure can lift us up into an experience of the transcendent. As a culture we are always plugged in, notifications and reminders going off on our multiplicity of mobile devices and this can begin to erode the meaning of our existence, of searching for true happiness.

Joseph Pieper, in his classic “Leisure, the Basis of Culture” wrote, “Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture and ourselves (emphasis mine).

The ability for non-activity.

I learned this lesson while camping with my family in the beautiful State Parks of South Dakota.

Of course, there is some level of activity while camping. Take, for instance, packing and planning food for meals and the initial ordeal of getting a well-used pop-up camper too actually “pop up!” But once settled in, life was a series or relaxing events such as swimming, hiking, napping, reading in lawn chairs and meeting the other campers. There were no such things as “I-pad” anything to distract us. My dad, being the friendly-neighborhood camper, would always meet and talk to everyone. (I still think he should seek employment at a State Park). My mom, always wearing a fantastic sun hat to protect from the sun, would have a book or her magazine handy.

The campfire, though, for me, provided the greatest lesson in this “non-activity” that we would be engaged in. There is something so captivating about fire. We would spend hours around it. My Dad would get lost in it and start philosophizing. (He actually built a fire pit in our backyard so he doesn’t have to wait to go camping to enjoy them these days.) We would sing around the campfire, pray, we would make s’mores, and we would be silent. In this silence, and sitting under the stars, we could hear the chirping insects and the popping of the firewood, and I experienced God’s presence. Although my parents never sat the three of us girls down and gave us a lecture on ‘the meaning of leisure,’ we began to experience through the time in nature and simply ‘being.’

The fire also is one of the many symbols of the Holy Spirit. In the Pentecost sequence we hear proclaimed:

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come
Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul’s most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below;
in our labor, rest most sweet…

As we seek to renew our souls by entering into leisure, let us beg the Holy Spirit to bestow His sweet rest. There is nothing He wants more than to lift our burdens and aid us to enter into rest here and into eternity.

Sister Marie Estelle, O.C.D.

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

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Alhambra, California 91801

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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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