I am hopeful that our Catholic educators will take time for leisure this summer. I hope all people will take some time and I truly hope they will not feel guilty about it!
Growing up on a farm, I learned about work. I was taught, from a very young age, that all work is good and that you should always work hard.
I also learned that work was seasonal in nature. You had months that were very busy, but you also had days or a week or two, where you could relax, without a long list of things to do.
Today, I yearn for a little more "seasonal" work. Many people believe that because of the school calendar, that teachers get "June, July and August off." That is simply not true anymore. Instead, our teachers and school leaders spend their time working to improve their practice through professional development activities during the summer. Others have a second job to supplement their lower teacher salaries. Still others work to invite others into Catholic education and enroll new students over the summer months. In the Catholic Schools Office, there is always plenty of work for us to do, no matter the season. It is good work, rewarding work and we are grateful to have the opportunity to help the Church with its educational ministry.
Working hard is a good thing and I hope our students learn to work hard and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with a job well done. I also hope that they learn that rest and relaxation are good things, things that we should do without apology.
Pope Francis has spoken on this topic of work and leisure. In the book, "Pope Francis: His Life In His Own Words," by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti (April 2013), they quote Pope Francis as saying: "Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport." Pope Francis goes on to say that Catholic social teaching supports the idea that workers have dignity and there is dignity in their work. Dignity includes the workers' need for rest. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says that leisure is important. In Paragraph 2185 it states, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body."
As with most Catholic educators, and probably people in general, I don't generally think about leisure time. There is always so much to do. Reading the comments made by Pope Francis, however, I have thought about it. Leisure is as important as work. Work and leisure need to balance each other and we need to take time to make sure that we find equilibrium between the two.
I have read many studies that suggest our students are feeling the impact of very busy lives. The series of activities that we plan for our children leaves them with little time for leisure, little time to play just for fun and not enough time to just be a child that learns how to plan his/her own time and own fun.
I am wondering if we need to consider leisure time for our children and ourselves. Maybe we need to plan to have Sundays where we go to church, have lunch together and then let everyone do something that is fun for them. Maybe it is time to spend time doing nothing but enjoying each other's company. I think doing this might remind children of what is most important in life, as we remind ourselves that time together is precious.
Teaching children about the dignity of work is important. Teaching children about the need for rest is also important. Showing them through example that we work hard and take time to relax, might be very important lessons for us to teach our students.
Catholic educators are among the most giving people in the world. It is why our schools are places of hope, places where children are known and loved. I am hopeful that our Catholic educators will take time for leisure this summer. I hope all people will take some time and I truly hope they will not feel guilty about it! I want us to let God "lead us beside the restful waters." If we do, I believe we will find a renewal of our faith and in our work. After all, Pope Francis suggested it!
Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.