Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) reminds us that the call to holiness is not only for consecrated religious and priests, but for all of the faithful.

As the weather warms up, we begin to spend more time outside, relaxing with family and friends and taking vacation. All of those are good things, but they shouldn’t lead to us taking a vacation from our vocation.

One classic example of this phenomenon is not going to Mass when we are traveling. One of the common excuses is: “I didn’t know where there was a Catholic church or what time Mass started.” Stop. Think about that statement for a minute.

Before stepping out of the house to leave on vacation, we fill up the car with gas, look up flight times and book tickets, hotels, rental cars, trains, tours, restaurants,

museums and attractions. Yet, at the same time we can’t figure out when and where to go to Mass?

If we don’t want to take a vacation from our vocation, then Mass should be included in our vacation planning. A bonus: Going to Mass in a different place, culture or even language can be a great opportunity to experience the catholicity, the universal nature, of the Church in a concrete way.

Going to Mass in a new place can revitalize our faith and appreciation for Eucharist. Depending on where we are traveling, it can also be a chance to see some of the

beautiful artistic heritage of the Church. Others prefer to spend their vacation not running around, but rather relaxing on the beach or outdoors. We spend time dieting and working out to make sure we are in shape for the summer, but what about our spiritual fitness? When it comes to dieting and exercise, we can follow the strictest of disciplines, but what about our spiritual life? It is important to take care of our bodies and our souls. If we want to be physically fit, we don’t wake up and run a marathon on the first day or show up at the gym and start lifting several hundred pounds. We build up slowly. One of the common errors of those trying to get in shape is doing too much too soon. The results? Quitting. The same risk is present in the spiritual life. If we haven’t been praying for years, it’s unrealistic to suddenly start going to daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, practicing “lectio divina,” praying a daily rosary and participating in a Holy Hour. Such a jump will lead to burnout and arriving back at the beginning — no prayer life. If we want to develop our spiritual fitness — to grow in holiness and our relationship with God — then we need to build up our prayer life at an appropriate pace. The summer is meant to be a time of relaxation, whether it’s traveling far and wide, or spending time outdoors. That rest is a good thing, but let’s not turn it into an excuse to take a vacation from our vocation.

Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.

—Originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.