So what if I told you that you actually don’t need a vacation, or at least not the one you were thinking about planning or wish you planned six months ago, when things were not all booked up? I know, I know, we all need rest. You might even tell me that even God rested on the seventh day, and you would be right!
But let’s take it back a step. Why do we want a vacation? We want to get away from it all, disconnect, get more time with family, connect with nature, travel, or whatever else the reason might be. Ultimately, though, I think we want to make time for things we think are the most important, and we want to be happy.
However, what happens during a lot of our vacations is far from the ideal. Packing, traveling with kids, traffic, bad weather and more can cause stress, which often ruins even our best-laid plans. So, what are the elements that we need for the best vacation?
Rest: This is not to be confused with simply vegging out on entertainment. No one is well rested after binge watching a series, even if you were able to simply sit with your feet up. The point of rest is to recharge your body, soul and mind.
What actually restores you and your family? Each person might have something different, so be sure to take that into consideration. My wife and I find hiking and camping to be restful, even though we are active. That, for some family members or even friends of mine, is not at all restful. What is it that brings you delight and lifts your mind, soul, and body to God?
Prayer: If vacation and rest are to slow down and put the real priorities in their place again, that means God must be where he belongs in our priorities. We need to make sure that Mass and prayer are part of the plan from the beginning and not an afterthought. I always use masstimes.org to find local churches that have Mass near where I will be vacationing.
For prayer, keep it simple and be OK with that. Grace at meal time, even in public places, a simple prayer at the beginning and end of the trip to invite God in and thank God for the day's blessings, or even formulaic prayers like the rosary. When I am on a long road trip, I love using the Hallow App with my family to pray. There is even a “Kids” section that introduces prayer at the level of even the littlest of family members.
Relationships: Put down the phone and disconnect so that you can connect with your family and invest in those relationships that are most important to you. When you are on vacation and away from the normal chaos of life, this is the perfect time to be more deliberate in the way you speak and spend time as a family.
Whether it is asking really good questions or just simply listening to your family, nothing can replace the love someone receives when you give them quality time. Some questions you might consider are “What brought you joy today?” “Where did you see God working in your life today?” “When you are a parent, what traditions from your family would you like to carry on? What things would you change?”
You might realize that all the things I mentioned above you can do without going on vacation. That’s why I said you don’t need a vacation to really experience the rest you are looking for. I know the value of a great vacation, and you do, too, but I hope you can find ways to use these to guide your summer plan, whether you are going away or staying right at home.
• REST: Consider what type of activity fills up the joy bucket of you and your family. “The LORD answered: I myself* will go along, to give you rest.” (Ex 33:14).
• PRAYER: Prioritize going to Mass and include simple prayer in your day. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:16-18)
• RELATIONSHIPS: Disconnect from devices so you can really focus on relationships with those around you. To hold yourself and others accountable, set a rule to limit the time you spend on devices. “This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:21)
Faith at Home is a monthly column coordinated by the Diocese of Trenton’s Departments of Catechesis, Evangelization and Family Life, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry. For additional Faith at Home resources, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/faith-at-home