Do you like leisure activity? Are ever in the mood to live life differently? When you tell someone you are being leisurely, or that you need some leisure time because “life” is getting burdensome, it is not uncommon to get a weird look, a tart comment or utter dismissal. The Protestant work ethic doesn’t allow for holy leisure to rejuvenate mind, body and soul. The Catholic has a different approach to the subject principally because of the Doctrine of Creation and the Incarnation: savoring the beauty of creation or being engaged with real life but in a humane way taking account of the ways grace is operative. The classic work on the subject is Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture (recently republished in 1998), which I highly recommend. In the meantime, Trappist Father Michael Casey offers this insight on the place of leisure in life from the monastic perspective which is also applicable to us on the other side of the monastery wall.

Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational
activities. It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to
all its implications
, living it to the full. This implies a certain looseness
in life style that allows heart and mind to drift away from time to time.


Monastic
life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a
day. It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being
present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and
reflection, and expecting the unexpected.

Leisure allows openness to the
present. It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some
hazy anticipation of a desirable future
. Leisure means being free from anything
that would impede, color, or subvert the perception of reality. Far from being
the headlong pursuit of escapist activities and having fun, authentic leisure
is a very serious matter because it is the product of an attentive and
listening attitude to life.


Strangers to the City
Father Michael Casey, OCSO