Friday, July 24, 2015 - Updated: 9:28 am
As one of the “baby boomers,” our generation became the first television generation. As I reflect back on some of the shows of the 1950s — “Ozzie and Harriet,” “I Remember Mama,” “The Honeymooners,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” — without a doubt my favorite and that of many others was “I Love Lucy.” Particularly as I think about where television entertainment is today, I look back with a great deal of appreciation and nostalgia on the quality of comedy provided by Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Ethel and Fred Mertz. Of the 179 episodes of that series, which aired on CBS on Monday evenings, Lucy fans will have certain favorites. One episode that comes to mind is when the familiar foursome traveled across the country from New York to the West Coast in a 1955 Pontiac convertible for “Lucy and Ricky’s California Vacation.”
As I prepare this article for publication, I am getting ready to pack for my annual vacation, one week that I hope will be “R and R.” For the last 18 years I have made Longboat Key, Florida, the destination of my vacation. Every day of my “holiday” consists of the same routine: Mass with the faithful of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish with their pastor, Msgr. Jerry Finegan; breakfast of gazpacho soup at the Blue Dolphin Restaurant; several hours of being a “beach bum” on the gulf; quiet time for prayer; dinner at some of my favorite food spots in St. Armand’s Circle; frozen yogurt at Kilwin’s and shortly thereafter “lights out.” Every day — the same delightful routine!
In thinking about vacation, I wonder if we have lost an appreciation for what it means to take a vacation, much as we as a society have lost the innocence of the wholesome kind of comedy that was “I Love Lucy.” Some years ago, I heard a speaker remind his audience that a vacation means to “vacate” one’s usual schedule: work, responsibilities and routine. Unfortunately, our rapid-paced culture and its demands seem to have eroded what vacations are meant to be.
Whether we vacation hundreds of miles away or do a “staycation,” as followers of Jesus we do need to take seriously that time where we “vacate” our routine so that we can first and foremost connect with God.
Refreshed and “recreated”
While I enjoy the sand and the shore of the Sarasota Gulf Coast, what I most enjoy about my yearly vacation is the opportunity to make a visit every morning to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church on Longboat Key. Then I have the chance to really enjoy God’s presence in the quiet of the morning; to thoughtfully pray the rosary; to remember those people for whom I have promised to pray; to prepare for Mass. I relish the time I can spend in church before Mass and afterward, as well as the return to my “home away from home.” And while I do these same things at my home at the seminary, somehow it takes on a different “flavor” in a different environment.
As I think about Jesus and his ministry as recounted in the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus definitely knew how to “vacate.” No matter how hectic things got for him, he pulled aside to an “out of the way place” so that he could pray — a time to connect with his Father and become refreshed and “recreated.”
What prayer was for Jesus is what it is meant to be for us. Prayer gives us the opportunity to “vacate” — to go to an “out of the way place” to connect with God so that we can be refreshed and “recreated.”
A number of you are taking vacations this summer and many are not. But all of us have the opportunity to take those important vacations each day — when we pray our morning prayer and our night prayer and other times in between — where we can pull aside from routine and rigor to connect with God.
Yes, as I cherish the memory of “Lucy and Ricky’s California Vacation,” it becomes a reminder that vacation time truly can be a “time away.” As I think about Jesus and his life, it is even more important that time with him truly be “time with him.” It is that time that lets God “bridge the gaps” in our day-to-day living.
So — my vacation of 2015 in a week will become a memory, complete with beach sandals, swim trunks and casual attire. The time that you and I spend with God in prayer must be much more than a memory. It is a daily invitation to which we need to say, “Yes.”
As I am grateful for the opportunity to “vacate” with God, I hope that you can “get away” and “vacate” with God, too!