Lord, Give Us Holy Leisure

Dad and daughter, baking together.

Dad and daughter, baking together.

During a recent meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Pope Francis posed the following:

“And tell me, do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?’ … The free gift of a parent’s time is so important.”

His words reminded me of the following a-ha moment.

In between bouts of folding laundry, cleaning house, and preparing lunch one recent day, I spotted a family sitting on my next-door neighbor’s front lawn. After a second look, I realized the man was the construction worker who had been pouring concrete in the neighborhood all morning. He was taking a lunch break and his pregnant wife and young son joined him for a picnic under the shade of my neighbor’s tree.

As I continued about my chores, each time I happened to pass by the front window, I would sneak another peek of the family. It was like gazing at a beautiful painting to absorb every little detail. I stepped back, folded my arms, and marveled at the beauty on the other side of the window. A sense of peace permeated their picnic. When the time came for their goodbyes, the husband shared plenty of hugs and kisses with his wife and son. The baby within his wife’s womb even received a few smooches. I walked away from the window feeling blessed and better for witnessing that encounter.

Ephphatha — Be Opened!

What was it about that family’s picnic that stopped me in my tracks? I have a hunch it has something to do with a small but important Aramaic word: “Ephphatha.”

In the Gospel of Mark, we journey with Jesus and a deaf man. Jesus took the deaf man aside, touched his ears and tongue, and with a deep sigh said Ephphatha!” or “Be opened!” Immediately the man began to hear and speak fluently.

That one word, Ephphatha, can sum up Christ’s entire mission. Pope Benedict once said, “He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others … to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others.”

Holy Leisure

As I reflected on why that family’s picnic seemed to move me so, the words “Holy Leisure” rested on my heart. The Church fathers, St. Benedict in particular, wrote about the need for Otium Sanctum or Holy Leisure. It refers to an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, to be at peace through the activities of the day, to pace ourselves.

The family enjoying their leisurely picnic was the conduit to receive my Ephphatha message. God was speaking to me through that family. How grateful the eyes of my heart were open to receive the message as so often they are not.

When my husband Joel first started deacon formation, the ability to establish proper balance between family, work, and diaconal ministries was stressed by the deacon formation team and spiritual advisors. It’s certainly an area for growth at Das Schmidt Haus. Our ongoing, twice-a-month deacon formation study weekends on top of life in general have us feeling hurried and frenzied. Things like leisurely picnics are so often an afterthought. When your five-year-old daughter mimics your “Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” perpetual pleas, it might be a clue the pace of life may be a little out of balance.

I’ve read that if one’s work is properly ordered and subordinated to leisure, everything else then falls harmoniously into place. The challenge now lies in grasping that balance. And that, my friends, is something my husband and I are working toward and actively building into our daily lives.

Dona nobis Domine otium sanctum! Lord, give us holy leisure!

How do you incorporate holy leisure into your family’s daily routine? What’s your favorite way to waste time with your children?

Copyright 2013 Lisa Schmidt


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  1. This is a wonderful reminder! I know that when I slow down and savor the moment, I have a strong sense of God. It also makes me deeply thankful for my husband and daughter. In our crazy busy culture, we must learn to enjoy “Holy Leisure”.

  2. Monica Major on

    Now I don’t have to feel guilty any more! My younger son always wakes up early and he comes to snuggle with me in bed before we both get up. It can get a little rambunctious when his little sister also joins us… This is definitely my favorite way to waste time with the kids.

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