For the last several months I have been contemplating observing the Sabbath as a day without “servile” work: answering email, mapping out projects, running errands, getting a head start on the week–stuff I do every Sunday.
Beginning tomorrow, the Sabbath–Sunday– will be spent relaxing: nothing planned, nothing scheduled–just enjoying the day as it unfolds.
I have been very hesitant to make a commitment to a “work-less” Sunday. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about not being busy, organizing the day with a list of things to do and accomplish.
But the racing around didn’t make me feel better–it made me feel less.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to ask a fellow blogger, Benny the Bridgebuilder from Bulls, if he knew where I could get a copy of Cardinal Suenens remarks on stress and leisure.
Benny very kindly send me a pdf of the article How to Relax, which appeared on page 25 of the final commemorative issue of The Word, published December 2008. The original article by Cardinal Suenens appeared in the August 1965 edition.
Here are some excerpts I found especially relevant to my situation. It was almost as if Cardinal Suenens took some time to sit down and talk to me about my life:
“Modern life is lived at high tension; its pace is intense and nerves get frayed. Whatever it costs, we must learn how to stop, when we need to, and draw a quiet breath. Many solve the problems of necessary recreation by taking more holidays. This is a step forward. But we must still learn how to relax, how to avoid being unbalanced by amusements, how to measure how this rhythm of fatigue and repose in the required mixture.”
“In order to acquire this art, we must learn particularly how to take advantage of the little opportunities life has to offer and become children at heart again. We must not live at such an intensive, hustling pace that we no longer have time to – have time. To be relaxed makes one accessible to others.”
“We must learn, or re-learn, to have time. Our Lord himself did not want His Apostles to live in a state of perpetual tension. He urged them to “come away into a quiet place” – “rest a little”, He said to them on days after they had finished their apostolic missions. In the wilderness and in solitude, He revealed to them the best of Himself and His message.”
“We stand in need of rest – in the ordinary sense of the word, and also rest in God. We must find a place for Him in the bustle of the day; a place for private prayer, for slow and mediative reading. We need this ‘oxygen.’ It is one of our vital necessities.”
“We need to get our breath back. That is why the Church is so insistent on Sunday being kept as a holy day; a day for public worship, certainly, but also a day of rest.”
“We must detach ourselves from our work, but only in order to attach ourselves more firmly to the one thing needful. We must stop, like the Alpine climber who has reached a high peak, to take breath for a moment, admire the view, fill our lungs with fresh air and go on to the next peak.”
“Sunday is the day to halt so that we can resume our march with a firmer tread. Do not let us neglect to fix our gaze on the sky until we can see the stars there. We make much better headway here on earth when we have a sense of direction and move forward with a firm step on solid ground. Looking at the heavens is the form of relaxation we can least dispense with if we want to keep things in their perspective and make the world a better place to live.”
Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens (1904-1996) served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, Belgium, from 1961-1979. He was made a cardinal in 1962. Suenens was a leading voice at the Second Vatican Council.
In May 1969 he offered a passionate critique of the Roman Curia during an interview with Informations Catholiques Internationales. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, a high official at the Vatican, demanded he retract his remarks. Suenens refused.
Ten years later, Cardinal Suenens reflected on the event and said, “There are times when loyalty demands more than keeping in step with an old piece of music. As far as I am concerned loyalty is a different kind of love. And this demands that we accept responsibility for the whole and serve the Church with as much courage and candor as possible.”
– Benny, thank you so much for sending me the article. It really helped me.