A Break from Routine
“Don’t take a VA-cation from your VO-cation!” I can still remember the groans after this play on words that we would gleefully spring on one another before breaks while I was a student in Old College. We groaned because it wasn’t a very good joke and also because we had heard it so often. And yet…I think there came a time almost every break, maybe three or four days, perhaps a week in to summer when I would begin to feel particularly lazy or unmotivated, and that phrase would pop back into my head. “You are on break from SCHOOL, not from your prayer life,” I would try to remind myself. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, honestly, it didn’t, but I would put that phrase in the same category as mom’s perennial, “If you don’t have anything NICE to say, then don’t say anything at all!” It may not be sophisticated, but it sure is true.
It takes more discipline to keep your spiritual practices going strong when the rest of your schedule changes. The structure of our daily routines, as much as they can wear us out, can also work to our advantage if we let them. Just as I have a time I need to get up and get ready, I can make a point of adding into that routine time to pray each day. But on break that routine, rightly, is set aside for a time. Do not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that breaks are a time to have NO ROUTINE at all. That can be dangerous for your spiritual life.
I don’t think it is bad to go easy on yourself; after all, you have worked hard and deserve and need some R&R. Still, it is a good idea to think about how you want to use your time away from the usual routine, especially if you will have a significant amount of “down time.” Recall another old maxim: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Have an idea of what your relaxed break routine will be: when will I get up, when will I pray, when will I exercise, when and how will I get to Mass?
If you are looking at an extended summer break, consider going on a retreat, either a guided one (which may cost some money) at a retreat center or religious house, or plan your own mini-retreat by traveling to a nearby shrine or beautiful church to pray and be renewed.
Most importantly, don’t let breaks become breaks from the Sacraments. Where will Mass be? Where can I find Confession? Get your rest and spend some quality time with family, old friends, and with the Lord. Then you will be energized to jump back in when the bell rings at the end of break.
An excerpt from the Eastern “Akathist Hymn” to Mary, the Theotokos
Rejoice, O seer of the ineffable Will.
Rejoice, O surety of those praying in silence.
Rejoice, you the Preface of Christ's miracles.
Rejoice, you the Pinnacle of His commandments.
Rejoice, O heavenly Ladder, by which God descended.
Rejoice, O Bridge leading those from earth to Heaven.
Rejoice, O Miracle, much marveled of Angels.
Rejoice, O trauma, much dirged of demons.
Rejoice, you who ineffably gave birth to the Light.
Rejoice, you who revealed the mystery to none.
Rejoice, O knowledge superseding the wise.
Rejoice, You who enlighten the minds of the faithful.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Follow this link to read the rest of the Akathist Hymn.
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