When I was little, the idea that a family wouldn’t go to Mass while on vacation was unthinkable. It didn’t matter if you had to come out of the mountains from camping or drive a hundred miles to the nearest church…if it was Sunday, you went to Mass.
Not so much anymore. Like the Protestant friends of my childhood, many Catholics now don’t consider it necessary to make an extreme effort to get to Church while on vacation. In fact, vacation often means a vacation from religion as well as work.
Granted, it isn’t always feasible to get to Mass (even after consulting www.masstimes.org for the nearest church.) Once I was with friends on holiday; I didn’t have a car; they didn’t want to drive me the forty-odd miles to the nearest Catholic Church and no public transportation was available. (No taxis either where we were!) So getting to Mass wasn’t possible. However, just because there is such a thing as the Travelers’ Dispensation, doesn’t mean we have carte blanche to disregard our Sunday obligation. That Sunday I took some time away from friends and festivities to sit quietly and read from Scripture, to pray silently and to reflect on the goodness of God in my life. It wasn’t the same as going to Mass, obviously, but it was in accord with the spirit of keeping the Sabbath.
In fact, summer is a wonderful time to find some news ways to celebrate the Sabbath. One is to attend a different church, even if you having a stay-cation at home. The tenor and tone of parishes varies tremendously and experiencing another church can be an entertaining and enlightening experience. If you are near a monastery, attending Mass with the brothers or sisters is another way to expand your experience of Sunday faith. In fact, just going to Mass at a different time or sitting in a different section of your own church can make the familiar seem fresh and inviting.
This season is also ideal for really setting aside an entire Sabbath Day…after Mass escape to the beach, the mountains, the river, the pool and simply allow yourself to experience the incredible joy of giving thanks to our creator for life. Or visit a farmers’ market and sample the bounty of God’s creation. Or play games in the backyard. Or, well, the choice is wide open.
With that I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite prayers of summer by James Vanden Bosch. May it seep deep in your soul and bless you in these the days of blue sky and green grass.
God of creation, God of the seasons,
bless your creatures with seasons of delight.
Lord of the Sabbath, you have established the rhythms of life, establish in us also the rhythms for human prospering; grant us the good sense to enjoy Sabbath rest in this season.
Grant us, moreover, wisdom to know that there is a time to play, a time to cease from our labors, a time to sense majesty in a blue sky, richness in green grass, love in faithful friends, and joy in our being.
Grant us, then, blue skies this summer, and green grass; grant us faithful friends and the time, strength, and spirit for play.
Grant us the wit to know the goodness of this creation, which, blind, defiant, or ungrateful, we despoil.
Send our roots rain; our hearts ease, so that we may show in our lives that we can live rightly in this season of our lives and see it as if for the first time, in wonder, in awe, and in a spirit of thanksgiving. Amen.