Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral
As summer gets into full swing, this ‘oldie but goodie’ may help us to refine and perfect a particular virtue that can be a joy to undertake; the little-known virtue of Eutrapelia. St. Thomas Aquinas describes eutrapelia as the ‘habit of a pleasant and cheerful turn of mind’. While at one level eutrapelia is the habit of solid and good recreation for the sake of our sanity, it is really an expression of our inner righteousness that is manifested in outer decorum.
We all recognize the human need to relax and play; a turning away from the pressure and drudgery of work to recharge our batteries. Paying attention to our rest is vital to our health, but part of this equation is relaxation through exercise, games or a lazy day with a good book. The question is how and when we play. Balance is the key, because we don’t want to be addicted to our pastimes, and they must never be indecent or cause injury through carelessness or malice; don’t let leisure become an occasion of sin! Another big factor is timing. Missing Mass for the sake of games or through a self-imposed dispensation from Sunday Mass because we are ‘on vacation’ is just plain sinful and a needless omission of our spiritual duties. Blowing off Mass cannot be justified, especially in light of the number of Masses available in our area and around our state on the weekends. Hopefully we put more effort in fulfilling our weekly Mass responsibility than we do in pursuit of games and vacations. Some of us know the feeling of dread when trying to find Mass in a strange place or what it is like when the Mass times listed in the motel directory are incorrect and we are stuck; when this happens, the Church in Her compassion provides for these situations. The question then becomes whether we planned for this possibility as well as we planned for the vacation in the first place.
The commandment reads “keep holy the Lord’s day”. Lately that seems to mean a free day to do as we please; for example, yard work that absolutely must be finished ‘today’. God has given us a built-in free day in our busy life. Don’t fill it up with more of the daily grind, relax well and refer it to God. Recreation means re-creation; it’s the Lord’s Day in which we partake, sharing and experiencing in the joy and beauty of Creation. If this day is purely self-referred and we think it means we can do whatever we want, we miss out on God and His glory.
When we render the praise that God is due, wherever we are, we are content and avoid sin…needless sin at that. If you are away from home, 1-800-MASSTIMES will help you find where you need to go. Develop the virtue of Eutrepelia. Play hard, play well and go to Mass on Sunday. Summer is fun, but it is short, so make the most of it in a well-rounded, spiritual way. Happy Father’s Day!!!!