“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” How often people have said this with a wry smile as they cope with an untimely interruption to their well-ordered (or not-so-ordered), scheduled events. This phrase came to mind again, when Editor James Pauley informed me that he was losing his battle with a persistent cold, which developed into the flu…just as his editorial for this issue was due. So, what do we do when life “interrupts” us? Instead of mourning the loss of our plans, we find God’s plan in the here and now of reality.
A little over a year ago, I recommended to Dr. Pauley that we address the theme of leisure very strategically in the April-June issue, as this is the time of year when Catholic schools, universities, and catechetical programs are coming to a cyclical close and readying themselves to take a break. This is the perfect time for those of us in ministry to pause from the whirlwind of activity that fills our lives, and even at times distracts us from the God we serve, in order to contemplate him, who is the Life and the truest Reality.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal said, “We should concentrate not so much on the work that God does in us as on the God who does the work in us.” This is the meaning of leisure. Leisure is not an escape from reality. Leisure is an intentional attitude toward reality, an awareness that God is continually present to us in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. And whether or not we “feel like it,” we must pause to delight in God’s generous gift of love for each of us, to humbly allow him to tutor us in the meaning and purpose of our own life. As St. Jane also said, “We must be as satisfied to be powerless, idle and still before God, and dried up and barren when He permits it, as to be full of life, enjoying His presence with ease and devotion. The whole matter of our union with God consists in being content either way.”
300 years after St. Jane Frances de Chantal and 100 years after the Industrial Revolution, another well-educated and devout Catholic would take up this theme but through the discipline of philosophy. Josef Pieper warned his post-World War II audience that society was losing its very soul because leisure, in its truest sense, was devalued and replaced by the machine of work. I cannot do justice to Pieper’s seminal philosophical work Leisure: The Basis of Culture in this brief editorial. I encourage our readers to reflect on his two essays published under this title. Several of our authors cite his writings in this issue and share wonderful insights on the true meaning of leisure and how to live a life of leisure.
However, I can share how Pieper (and several other authors) changed the trajectory of my life.
Mine is not a conversion story of a bad person turned good. Instead, I was a self-sufficient, high achiever, who would still do good deeds but devoid of any real relationship with God. By 16 years of age, I had finished high school in only 3 years at the top of my class, served on Student Council and as Class President, was cheerleading co-captain, won a drama award for a lead musical role, performed with the Glee Club and Acapella Choir, and was inducted into the National Honor Society.
But in the second semester of my junior year, I spent my winter break at a small Catholic liberal arts college that employed the Socratic method to explore the works of not only Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle but John Henry Newman, Victor Frankl, and Josef Pieper. Returning to high school and feeling overwhelmed by their insights, I sat at my desk listening to Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” from the movie Fame. While the song turned into a prayer for me, two lines in particular brought me to my knees before the God I had previously evicted from my life: “Help me through. Help me need you.” Finally, God got his foot in the door of my heart. I always needed God; I was just too stubborn to admit it. I realized that God is the Author of my life, and if I were to fully understand my life’s meaning and purpose, I needed to contemplate him.
On the surface, I’m sure I still appear to be something of a workaholic, but the material difference between then and now is that it is an interior life with Christ that motivates and compels me to be open to whatever he sends my way. Again, what do we do when life “interrupts” us? Embrace the Life: learn from him, love him, and live him.
Colleen Rainone has been the Publications Director for The Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University since April of 2007. Initially hired by Franciscan University to assist with the co-publishing of The Sower with Maryvale Institute of England and promoting it in North America, Colleen now oversees editorial, design, marketing, and operations for The Catechetical Review. Colleen has worked in Catholic publishing for 35 years and has published five of her own books.
 The Story of Christian Spirituality, Two Thousand Years, from East to West (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2001), 227.
This article originally appeared on page 5 of the printed edition. Public domain photo from Pixabay.com.