The Greatest of all Concerns

But let us remember, Philothea, so to pass our time of recreation that we may never lose sight of the greatest of all concerns–eternity. (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life III.27)

We can’t work all the time. We need sleep, for one thing, and we need to take a day off every week (hence the gift of the Lord’s day). But we need more relaxation even than this. Our brains can only take so much seriousness without a break. St. Francis acknowledges this aspect of human frailty. We need to have fun. We need to laugh and to enjoy entertainment as part of refreshing ourselves for the more serious parts of life.

But de Sales offers a valuable warning, too. We shouldn’t become so involved with recreations that we lose sight of the reason why we exist at all. We are made for fellowship not only with each other, but primarily with God. In a parable Jesus described those people who never bear fruit for eternity because the cares of this life overwhelm them, but no less fearful is it to be overcome by the fun stuff this world offers. We can be distracted from eternity–from the very reason that God made us–not only by the difficulties of this life but also by its entertainments. It is this that St. Francis warns us about in today’s quotation. We need time off, but we have to be careful not to let that time off distract us from the things that really matter.

That’s easier said than done, maybe, and it is surely easier said than done in proper measure. How much fun do I need? How many episodes of Person of Interest do I need to watch in one night? Or how many games of sudoku is too many, or just enough? One size does not fit all, seemingly. So I can’t tell anyone what is too much or too little recreation for himself. We have to use our heads and exercise prudence.

It just occurred to me that my last post was about the role of suffering in the Christian life, and now I’m writing about having fun. I am bouncing all over the place. Oh well. The point (today) is that it is very easy for the fun stuff to so badly distract us that we lose sight of what is most important. The Christian life is hard–hence the previous post about suffering!–and fun is, well, fun. There’s nothing wrong with fun in its proper place and proper measure, says St. Francis (whatever that proper place and measure may be); but to let pursuit of earthly enjoyments divert us from the pursuit of that which matters most is surely the most tragic of endings.

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Posted in Ascent of Mt Carmel, Veritatis Splendor

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