Bethany in the Antipodes
I was already in secondary school I think, when it dawned on me that our family holidays to Warrnambool and Torquay and Coolangatta, weren’t so much ‘holidays’ for Mum.
For my mum, and mothers everywhere, family holidays offer the same routine lived at home — meals, laundry, cleaning, etc — albeit with a change of scenery. I think Marge Simpson mentions that in some episode, but I can’t find it on YouTube.
We all helped out of course, and having Dad around lightened the load, but there’s no getting around it: if you’re a mother, family holidays are as hardworking as the regular routine. Mums don’t get vacation time.
That’s really a video for a Mothers’ Day post, I know. But all this lends itself to consideration of priests’ holidays. Being a priest is no more a job than being a mother is a job. It’s a vocation. A life. So just as a mother keeps up a working routine on the family holiday, so too the priest.
That’s the ideal I aspire to. My lived experience, however, is something quite different. It’s a struggle to stay faithful to my daily prayer even in the routine of parish life, so staying faithful during rest and recreation requires even more effort. Fortunately for me, St Josemaría was alert to this too, which is why he proposed annual courses for priests in Opus Dei.
That’s what I’m doing in New Zealand. It’s kind of like a working holiday — a cross between a retreat and a vacation and a conference. Prayer is scheduled into the day: meditations, Mass, the Divine Office, the Rosary. So is study (we’re working through Evangelii Gaudium) and recreation: sight-seeing; sport; ‘tramping’ (that’s Kiwi for bushwalking).
If anything, my interior life deepens during this time. I imagine it as time in Bethany, joining the apostles as they rest with Martha and Mary and Lazarus. And, of course, our Lord.
And what a Bethany it is. I’m staying at a retreat centre which until very recently was a bed-and-breakfast resort.