Vacations as a Spiritual Aid

Papal Preacher on Keeping Holy the Holiday

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ROME, JULY 14, 2004 ( Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, reminded the faithful that vacations offer them the chance to dedicate themselves to God and prayer.

John Paul II himself, speaking last Sunday in the Italian Alpine village of Les Combes, where he is vacationing, of the importance of dedicating time during the holidays to God and the rediscovery of «the indispensable interior dimension of human existence.»

On Tuesday, Father Cantalamessa told Vatican Radio: «There is a moment in the Gospel in which Jesus says to his disciples: ‘Come away and rest.’ I think vacations should be like this, a different period because one has more free time to listen, especially to one’s wife, to play with the children, to read a good book.»

«It is interesting that the word ‘festive’ originally — and also today in liturgical language — meant a day dedicated to worship,» the Capuchin said.

The «feast» is therefore «the day in which one takes time off from other activities to dedicate oneself to a different activity and, as the Bible says, ‘Remember to keep holy the feasts,'» he said. «One should also say: ‘Remember to keep the feast days holy.'»

There is in Catholic spiritual tradition the exhortation «vacare Deo» — to be free for God and prayer, said Father Cantalamessa. It is a need that many people feel, which leads them to «spend really different vacations from those of others.»

«They go to places like monasteries, places that are far from the beaches and noise,» the priest said. «There are people who choose such vacations and love to walk in the midst of nature. This certainly responds better to the needs of the soul, because it allows man to leave the assembly line behind for a while.»

«Vacations should be, as said in English, ‘holy days,'» the preacher added.

During the holidays, it is «a pity to go see shows, special effects, which are far from nature, and neglect this great spectacle that God puts freely before our eyes every day,» he noted.

We should contemplate the color of mountains, the fir trees, virtually «impelled» to say at every moment: «But who has made this?» Father Cantalamessa continued. «Wonder before creation is part of the most universal and oldest feelings of man.»

He added: «There was a medieval author who said that in such cases man should feel like the maestro of an orchestra in the midst of all these voices of nature, which direct and uplift him, and lead him to praise God. A Christian with a minimum of familiarity with the Scriptures is certainly not lacking means to express these sentiments.»

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