Living in the Great Lakes state of Michigan, we’re blessed with some of the prettiest waterfront resort towns that make for wonderful long weekend getaways as well as extended vacations by the beach.
Each summer my husband and I always try to make it to one of these lovely lakeside communities. We’ve made a habit of this since we were first married nearly 28 years ago, and although the destinations may remain the same, a peek inside our luggage would reveal the major change that occurred in our life — our reversion to the Catholic faith. The flip-flops, the suntan lotion and the Michigan map are all still in there, but now so is the Magnificat, the Word Among Us and other devotional reading materials.
It is really amazing to stop and think about how even the little things change when you have a relationship with Christ. We’re not the perfect Christian couple by any means, and we still have our struggles, faults and issues like everyone else. But I couldn’t help thinking about this change after reading Pope Benedict XVI’s reflection encouraging believers to take God and his word on vacation.
The pope offered these nuggets of wisdom on Sunday, July 3, after reciting the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. He based his comments on the Gospel passage for that Sunday, from St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 11, verses 25-30:
“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Using these words to help us focus on the idea of coming to Jesus for true rest, relaxation and serenity, the Holy Father explained that a vacation is not about “leaving for the sake of leaving and resting” but rather it is about “living our relationships with our loved ones in a new way with God.”
“Place an emphasis on reading God’s word, especially the Gospel, which you are sure to put in your holiday luggage.”
Keeping up with the daily Mass readings and making sure there was a Catholic Church nearby during vacation so we could receive the Eucharist were activities that were not even on the radar screen for my husband and me in the early years of marriage.
We spent most of our time in planning our trips making sure we had a good beachfront hotel. We also did our best to find the trendiest restaurants in the beautiful communities such as Traverse City, Charlevoix or Harbor Springs situated along a stunning part of our state known as Michigan’s Gold Coast. Of course, we would also stroll through local museums and boutiques. We thought we were all that and then some.
At the same time, our marriage was beginning to crumble. Despite all the effort we put in to our vacations, I can remember often returning home drained and exhausted rather than refreshed. We were both too full of ourselves and our own successes to think that the lack of God in our lives had anything to do with needing a vacation from our vacation.
So take my advice, or much better yet, take the pope’s advice — don’t forget the Gospel when packing for vacation. It reminds me a of saying I saw posted outside a Protestant church in my neighborhood: “Know Jesus. Know Peace. No Jesus. No Peace.” Or, as the Holy Father said:
“At this time of year when so many of you are taking your annual holiday, I pray that you will truly find refreshment for body and spirit and an opportunity to rest in the Lord.”
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.