Up from a long sleep, already 12 noon, ready to kill two birds with one stone, a big breakfast and lunch combined, leisurely hours before the “boob-tube”, vegging out, the proverbial “Couch-potato”,  then, more time to rest--  prostrate on the beach soaking in the rays,  later luxurious dining, wining and then  off to the party, immodest dress, still more immodest dancing, interspersed with conversation, communicating the latest family and town gossip, and of course various off-colored jokes----- unfortunately, but all too true, this has been vacation time for all too many in contemporary society!

True, we all need rest, down time, vacation, even Biblically, after six days the Lord God rested.  Indeed we are called weekly to the “Sabbath rest”.  St. Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor, wrote concisely on the path to holiness and virtue.  He wrote on the importance of “Recreation”.   The word “Recreation” basically explains the purpose of an authentic vacation, and Sabbath rest.  “Recreation” is a compound word--- meaning to “recreate” or restore or rejuvenate one’s strength and energies so as to be able to return to accomplish one’s work all the more efficaciously and competently, for the honor and glory of God, for one’s own sanctification and for the sanctification of others!

Following, we will highlight various activities that would be beneficial to live out one’s vacation purposely, fruitfully, and pleasing to the Lord of all!   Remember the words of the Apostle to the Gentiles:  “Whether you eat or drink (we might even add, “rest”) do everything for the glory of God!”

First, free time, vacation time, “Down time” should be God’s time!  One of the most frequently expressed complaints is “I am too busy and I simply do not have time!”  A misnomer, incorrect, fallacious reasoning!   Why?   Every person on planet earth is gifted, every day with 24 hours; this is universal!   The problem is mismanagement of time and an erroneous hierarchy of values!
At all times, places, and cultures, God should always be first.  Once Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, Our Lord a Savior, responded immediately:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.”   Therefore, vacation time should be “God time!”  Why not make it your first priority to draw closer to the Lord, and cultivate a deeper and more profound Friendship with the Lord! How, you might ask?  Response--- here is a list of activities for your choosing!  Spiritual reading to nourish the mind, a weekend retreat to recharge the “Spiritual batteries”,  a nature walk to praise the Creator manifested by the beauty of creation,  personal-private prayer, as well as family prayer especially the Holy Rosary.   However, by far the best and most efficacious means to grow in our relationship and friendship with the Lord  would be to attend daily Mass, receive Holy Communion with lively faith,  fiery-fervor and profound humility.  May the Lord be the King and center of our rest and vacation!  

Second, cultivate the mind!  An unused instrument becomes rusty, an uncultivated field becomes cluttered with weeds that choke out the flowers, muscles not exercised atrophy and become flabby.  The same can be said about the mind.   Exercise of the mind, through the mental discipline of solid reading serves to upgrade ones’ thought process, reinvigorate one’s mental capacity, and elevate one from the danger of mental torpor and dullness.   What to read?  We live in a world full of information but equally true, mass confusion.  Ask your spiritual director for advice in this area!  However, one cannot err in reading the Bible, the Fathers of the Church (Patristics), the Doctors of the Church, the writings of the Popes, and finally the lives of the saints—those who indeed incarnated and lived the life of Christ, who can motivate us to do the same!
Third, PHYSICAL EXERCISE!  In modern America there is an epidemic of obesity and simply overweight people, starting with children.   Once a friend of mine told me that the best exercise to lose weight is to push yourself away from the table! Bingo!  Self-control at the table indispensable to control weight.  Moreover, physical exercise serves to keep the body in shape.  Remember the words of St. Paul: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; therefore, glorify God in your bodies!”   A brisk walk or mountain climb, swimming, tennis, aerobics, and volleyball—to mention a few, are excellent ways to keep the body in shape or return the body to shape!
Fourth, SOCIAL LIFE CONNECTIONS.  As said earlier, one of the most common false statements is , “I do not have time; I’m too busy!”  Wrong!  Find time for the essentials, the indispensables, the primary activities of life.  Aristotle commented that man is a social animal; the English poet added to this with the words: “No one is an island unto himself!”  Therefore, in vacation why not find time to connect socially and verbally with good friends, with relatives, maybe even your spouse and children.   The song “The Cat in the cradle” by Harry Chapin depicted an eerie but all to true reality!  A son complains to his father begging him to accompany him in his important moments in life, but the father always finds excuses that he is too busy but later—tomorrow—he will find the time.  In sum, the father never found time and his son leaves him, with the father never really getting to know his son.  How painful but true of modern society!  We must find time to connect verbally, emotionally, and even more important, spiritually, with friends, relatives and family! Vacation time is the prime time!
Fifth,  HOBBY OR TALENT TIME!    One of the most telling Parables of Jesus, couched in between the Parable of the Foolish and wise virgins and the Parable of the Last Judgment, is the Parable of the Talents ( Mt. 25).  Brief and to the point, in the Parable of the Talents, Jesus emphasizes the need to recognize our talents and to use them responsibly; if not, punishment will ensue!    When God creates a human person, he endows him with a human soul, which is immortal, a body that should be used to glorify God as well as talents.   Discovering ones’ talents and then cultivating them, is incumbent upon every individual.
Vacation time lends itself to more available time that can be used to cultivate these God-given talents.   Always these talents should be cultivated to glorify God, sanctify the individual as well as to sanctify others!   What then might be some of these God-given talents?  The number and variety of talents is limitless! However, how tragic it would be to come to the end of one’s life and to have utilized one’s talents only partially--- 10%, 40%, or 60%.   The ideal for every disciple of Christ is to discover his talents and to use them to the very limit!  Athletic abilities, artistic endeavors, musical gifts, writing or speaking skills, (the art of communication),linguistic gifts, these and many more are talents that God in His infinite bounty bestows generously upon the human race.  It is up to everyone individually to discover his talent/talents and cultivate them to the maximum! Parents should get to know their children well and help them to discover their individual and specific talents and encourage them to use them.

In short, enemy number one is laziness. Even though one is aware of his gift and talent, he does nothing to develop it! How tragic! How many will not profit from this talent hidden underneath the ground and how scary to go before the Lord on the day of judgment and to reckon an account with the Lord who will come to judge the living and the dead!

In conclusion, vacation time is not time for laziness that leads to inactivity and inertia and the augmenting of vices. On the contrary, vacation time is time to change gears and to cultivate areas of one’s life that have been put on hold due to the demands of the family life and work obligations.   Why not cultivate the spiritual life, the intellectual life, the social life, the physical/athletic life, as well as one’s personal talents.  If done, vacation time will not be a time of degradation but rather a time of renewal of one’s life, sanctification of one’s spirit and the enriching one’s total personality!