Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Now that summer has officially come to an end – and we all know that the St. Pius X Festival is the true mark of the end of summer – we find ourselves once again facing the activity and busy-ness of life, school, and non-summer activities. With this in mind, what are we to do? How do we engage the most hectic nine or ten months of the year while maintaining our sanity and our sanctity? I would like to suggest three “P’s” to help us through.
Pray. The first step should always be prayer. In a busy world, we need moments and even extended periods of silence to gather our thoughts. Every human heart is created to know and love God, and so we need to give ourselves time to pray. As Catholics, we do this both individually and communally. Our communal expression of prayer comes in the form of Sunday Mass. Attendance at Mass on Sunday should be the indispensable foundation of our prayer lives. If we want to keep our focus and help our children grow in their faith each day, the practice of attending Mass on Sunday is non-negotiable. With Mass, we guarantee ourselves a set time for prayer, which helps us put the busy things of life aside and connect with the God who loved us into being.
Prioritize. Everything in life seems to compete for our attention and demands to be most important. The truth, however, is that the most important things in life are our relationship with God and with our family. Everything else must be in service to these primary relationships. Work, career, sports, etc. must take second place. Prioritizing our practice of the faith and our time with family makes all the difference in the world. And fortunately, these two things are not mutually exclusive! A specific word about youth sports is necessary, I think. Every year, it seems that the demand for practice time and absolute commitment to the youth sports in Fairfield grows exponentially. Sports are great and there is no problem with sports per se. But when they demand an exclusive commitment that interferes with the practice of our faith, they have become a false god. But all is not lost! I know of a young woman who was recently confirmed here who, when a cheerleading practice was scheduled at the last minute that interfered with her Confirmation class, chose to attend class and skip the practice, resulting in unfair criticism from her adult coach and peer pressure from her teammates. She bravely chose her faith first. I also know a youth football coach who realized that his team had a game that would conflict with the Confirmation retreat for many of the boys on the team. He rescheduled the game so that his boys would be able to attend the retreat and told them that their faith comes first. May we all prioritize with this kind of faith!
Play. We are over-scheduled machines, sometimes. While structure in life is good, too much can be damaging. We need to give ourselves time to relax and to play. Here, I am not talking just about games or toys. Play is the type of activity that can otherwise be considered useless. But play allows us to develop a part of ourselves that, with too much structure and programming, would otherwise be left to wither. Play can take many shapes: games, sports, various hobbies, cooking, cleaning, reading, etc. We need to give ourselves space and time.
And so I encourage you in this new school year, in these busy months ahead, to pray, to prioritize faith and family, and to give yourself time to play, knowing that with these things, we find our truest identity, we live healthy lives, and our hearts, minds, and souls are able to open more fully to the life God has given us.