Memorial Day reminds us of Vacations and Vocations.
Memorial Day just passed, and America remembered the dedication and sacrifice of our military armed forces through parades, picnics, and hopefully, prayers. After Mass a few weeks ago, I was asked to offer a blessing to a young man who recently joined the Marines and was heading off to boot camp. This Friday I will do another blessing for a young, dedicated soldier deploying to Iraq. God speaks to me in those powerful moments and reminds me of the sacrificial aspect of our vocations – our calling in life! While the Memorial Day weekend officially begins a time for family vacations, it also reminds us of our personal vocation.
Vacations and Vocations! These two words almost sound the same. The difference of one letter changes the whole meaning. But a closer look at these two words within a context of Faith can offer a complementary understanding of each. Vacation, from the Latin verb “Vacare” means “to empty,” as in a vacuum. Vacations imply a time to “empty” oneself in order to be refreshed and hopefully, recreated. Vocation, on the other hand, comes from the Latin verb “Vocare,” meaning “to call.” God calls each of us to be true to ourselves and to our purpose in life. In light of the recent Memorial Day celebrations, the blessings for my parishioners going into military service, and of course, Pentecost Sunday – when the Holy Spirit inspires us to love through action – these two words remind us that God can use this time of the year to “call us” to “empty” ourselves.
I don’t want to trivialize these two words. These words provide us deeper meaning for life. The young men and women in our military are definitely on no vacation. But they have “emptied” themselves in response to their “vocation” to serve our country’s efforts for freedom and peace. From the example of these brave Americans, I think we can all learn that vacations are not an exclusive time for excessive pleasure or wanton spending. Instead, they are a time to “empty” ourselves in order to better respond to our “vocation” – to what God calls us to do. In our modern and often commercial understanding of vacations, we’re doing the exact opposite. Instead of emptying ourselves, we take on too much! We try so hard to make our vacations look like Fantasy Island, the Love Boat (I just dated myself), or like something contrary to our natural lifestyle that “stays in Vegas.” Our vacations don’t even include time to listen to God, pray, or go to Church. Remember, vacations do not mean time off from our vocation. Beginning our Vacation Season with Memorial Day’s true significance should remind us of that!
In fact, good vacations provide an opportunity to empty ourselves of stress, frustrations, and the rat-race mentality that makes us forget to pray and to listen to our “vocation” – the Call. So as your family plans your next vacation, be sure to get some R & R and R: Rest, Recreation, and Religion. A good vacation will only help us to better fulfill our vocation when we get back to reality.
At the start of this vacation and vocation season, help spread the word by passing on this email blast to your family and friends, or even put it in your church bulletin. It's a great reminder for everyone in the middle of the week to take some time, listen to God, and ask Blessings and Grace Before Meals! Also, passing on this Blast to as many people as possible helps us secure a number of interested possible viewers when we present the show to various PBS networks and sponsors!
While on vacation, consider this traveling tip: See a different part of the country or world through the eyes of Faith and through the eyes of our stomachs. In other words, check out the ways people celebrate their Faith and see how the food complements their religious celebrations! From the Italian and Greek Festivals sponsored by various neighborhood churches to the church group sponsored Bull & Oyster Roasts, we can get a real flavor for the local Feast Days! It’s even more dramatic if you visit different parts of America or the world. Recently, I offered a suggestion for an American Taste to a Classic Italian Dish to the owners of Mediterraneo Restaurant in Westminster. It’s a way to celebrate the flavors of Memorial Day – Italian and American Style. For the recipe [click here].
A good vacation for me means being refreshed enough to come back to my work and mission with renewed vigor. I’ve been tempted to have vacations that were just busy with fun! But I’ve also felt a sense of longing and emptiness if I didn’t take time to pray and reflect, to visit the local church, or to experience God in the midst of this new experience. As a priest, I’m fortunate to celebrate Mass every day and to pray the Liturgy of Hours no matter where I am. As lay people, may I suggest taking time and going to Mass on a weekday during vacation? It’s something you normally can’t do in a busy week, and it can offer a weary vacationer the prayerful quiet to reflect, refresh and recreate!
God of all creation, you give us time for Sabbath – a time for rest. Help us to experience the grace to be recreated and renewed in your Spirit. Grant us all safe travel, joy in our new experiences, and the awe and wonder to celebrate the joys of this time away. May these experiences help us to shed the stress and struggles of daily life so that we can be more open to the gift of Your Call in our lives! Amen.
Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.