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Thoughts on Vacations, Virtue and 'Playfulness'

I will soon be heading off for a summer vacation. Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen my posts over the years from Pine Point, Maine, complete with photos of sun and rain, surf and turf, and long walks at the water’s edge. I’m fortunate enough to be able to spend time with a large number of family and friends, to relax and recharge. I always make sure I use all of my vacation days. After all, that’s what they’re there for. And believe it or not, I even think I am being a bit virtuous in this.
 
“What?” you might say, “Taking a vacation is virtuous? Surely, the bishop jests.” Not at all. I am sitting-on-a-beach-chair-reading-a-good-book-drinking-a-frosty-beer serious and I offer the encouragement of the saints themselves for your consideration.
 
St. Augustine in his treatise “On music” wrote, “I pray thee, spare thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work." 
 
St. Thomas Aquinas draws upon the writing of Aristotle and even promotes relaxation as virtuous, “Just as man needs bodily rest for the body's refreshment, because he cannot always be at work - since his power is finite and equal to a certain fixed amount of labor - so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work.” The remedy St. Thomas offers is the virtue of eutrapelia, the virtue of “playfulness” or “fun,” intended to refresh the person in both body and soul.  Now, Thomas does place some guidelines on this: the “play” must not be immoral or “wicked,” it must be in moderation, and it is intended toward a good end, namely to renew and refresh. But, it really is intended to be fun and playful as well.
 
So, here is my encouragement: Even if you can’t get away to the coast of Maine or the lakeshore or any place at all for a vacation right now, make sure you try and grab some downtime to relax and refresh body and soul and practice the virtue of eutrapelia, so as to be refreshed to go out and take care of all the other duties of life and faith. A good balance between work and play is good for the soul. 
 
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