Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

The Art of Leisure

As the summer comes to a close and school begins, I thought we should reflect briefly upon the topic of leisure. From a Catholic perspective, leisure is actually about to begin. I know what you’re thinking, Q has lost his mind and just because his idea of leisure is studying the effects of the Modernism on Western culture does not constitute my idea of leisure. Maybe so, but I would argue that we have been so vastly brainwashed by society we have no clue what leisure is anymore – and it is not what we pass off as the lazy relaxing days of summer.

To the ancients (that does not mean our grandparents) leisure was the principle factor in the development of every Western society. It was and is the foundation of any culture. The word for leisure in the Attic Greek is skole or in the Latin schola. I know most of us do not do the Latin and Greek thing so, let me translate into English: school. That’s right, school (shhhh, don’t tell the kids, their minds might explode).

Leisure is about piercing though the veil of information gathering to see that which is good, pleasing and perfect – not a time for our minds to check out and fry in slothful oblivion. But, the type of learning that leisure is aimed towards is not only the objective information gathering, memorization and application that we associate with learning. The end of this type of learning for most students means school is a necessary evil towards a high paying job with some sort of existential utilitarian satisfaction, which is exactly what leisure is not. Leisure is associated less with discursive learning and more with contemplation.

Discursive learning is about the particulars while contemplation (this is not the grace with which the Holy Trinity draws us into union) is about appreciating the object in its essence. It is accepting everything about the object or even the person – the good, the bad and the ugly. We so many times are so concerned with what something does, how we can use it, and/or of the value is holds for us.

To learn about something is to first see and love it for what it is. God created all things good. Only when we appreciate the object’s goodness can we begin to understand the object and appreciate its value for ourselves and society. School is backwards today. We learn to manipulate and get the highest score to get into a school or job by amassing information. That is not leaning but using something or someone. We wonder why the last last few generations have perfected the art of using people to accomplish a task, meet their “life” goals thereby meeting their own needs. Yes, even in ministry.

We need to repent. To rethink how we approach everything and everyone. Leisure is meant to be peaceful which leads to relaxation – it is not meant to give us more time to do something but become someone. Holiness amplifies leisure and quickly gives meaning to our lives. Maybe we should think through our relationships and see which ones are healthy. Do our relationships push us towards holiness or entertain us and reinforce how we choose to live? Do we reject the situation and the people the Lord has put into our life or do we flee for the comfortable and complimentary. Scripture proclaims, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverb 27:17)

Once we look at ourselves, we should look towards those to whom we are Christ’s ambassadors. I would like to encourage us to re-evaluate how we define learning and what we demand of our children and students. Teach them to love learning and leisure by teaching how to appreciate the object of their desire before they dissect it. Teach them to look at something without a motive in mind. Teach them to see beauty before utility.

Do not get me wrong. The days of religious education, youth ministry and education proper that are just about talking about what is going on in our lives must become secondary. We will find Jesus in others but we must first teach what they are looking for and how to avoid the lies. That can only be done over time – we must be in for the long-haul because there are no short-cuts. As I hope I have made clear, education has a proper context.

And then there is prayer. For instance, Adoration. Many times when we go before the Lord we look at the Monstrance and make our considerations about every detail of His life and ours. But do we take the time to adore him – to appreciate the beauty of who He is. Even more importantly, do we allow Him to adore us? He wants to cast His loving gaze upon us too and just enjoy our presence. Don’t fight it…leisurely spend some time with him and let Him adore us in the beauty He created.

There is much more to learn about leisure and this is only a taste. Josef Pieper compiled two of his essays and entitled the work, Leisure, the Basis of Culture. You will find that it will shed a plenitude of light on the subject i.e., purchase the book and read it.

I pray that your children and students will have a leisurely school year.

5 Responses to The Art of Leisure

  1. Joe says:

    I remember reading Pieper’s book on Leisure and just being mesmerized by the clarity of thought and the rationale behind it.

    A very nice discussion on the topic. This is something that, I believe, could be making a comeback. I have talked to many a people who, in light of the global economy, are realizing that all the work they did, did little to nothing to help their economic or their family situation which was why they initially worked as long as they did.

  2. Jerry says:

    Excellent post. Leisure should indeed be about the joy of learning. Sadly, you hit it on the head, school is too often about filling students heads with factoids and not teaching them to think, how to learn, and most importantly, the joy of leisure.

  3. Jeff says:

    I have long thought that what we do with leisure very much defines us. Whatever we do when all the responsibilities of life are met is who we really are and wish to be.

    When I reflect on some of the things I have done in my spare time I find it both revealing and somewhat disappointing.

    Thank you for this reflection. It inspired me to get off my diff after the family was in bed and adoration at st Michael’s instead of a round of video games.

  4. Bob says:

    Wow, I know your wife is old, but calling her Ancient? That’s not very nice.

    Oh, and I guess I really do live a life of leisure. :-)

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