How can I keep my faith growing over the summer?

Q: How can I keep my faith growing over the summer?
A: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

Some of the commands of Jesus are easier to observe than others; we welcome as a gift this invitation to break away from the demands and routines of life to rest and be renewed. 

By Fr. Tom Knoblach

The Gospels tell us this “resting awhile” was among Jesus’ own priorities. He went off by himself to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35). He defended the importance of the Sabbath rest, not for God’s sake but for ours (Mark 2:27-28). He rested at Jacob’s well (John 4:6) and slept in the boat (Matthew 8:25). One of his most iconic sayings is this promise: “Come to me … and you will find rest for yourselves” (see Matthew 11:25-30). 

We may not think of flopping down on the couch with a sigh to rest after a long day in theological categories. But the natural rhythms of our bodies — hunger, sleep, exercise, that tired sigh — are part of the human condition that Jesus chose to share. We are finite and limited in ourselves, but infinitely and perfectly loved by God. A yawn can open us to prayer. 

As the days and nights have cycles, so do the seasons. For many people, summer slows the pace of life somewhat. Nature gives us longer days, warm sunshine, water that does not visit as ice or snow, growing gardens, blooming flowers, ripening fields. Schedules in parishes and schools also tend to lighten and allow all to take a breather, regenerating our strength and broadening our perspective beyond the immediate demands and tasks that absorb us. 

Translations vary, but those words of Jesus to “come away and rest” literally state “come away with me and rest.” That is, summer is an opportunity to grow in friendship with the Lord, simply to spend time in his presence.

“Summer is an opportunity to grow in friendship with the Lord, simply to spend time in his presence.”

Leisure lived in faith, invested in prayer, reading, meditation, a conscious enjoyment of God’s gifts of nature and relationships can reveal a different side of knowing Jesus as friend. 

At our clergy conference a few years ago, the presenter recounted that one of his priest friends spoke of feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities and problems. Bringing his burdens to Christ in prayer, he heard the Lord say: “You know, you used to love me; now you just work for me.” You could have heard a pin drop as we each did an instant examination of conscience: Is that me? Would Jesus say the same about our relationship? 

In this 2016 file photo, Katie Gramke and her sister Elise place paper flowers around the statue of Mary in the garden at
St. Katharine Drexel School in St. Cloud as Emma Lochen waits her turn. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

This summer, grow your friendship with Christ. Participate in Mass every weekend and perhaps some weekdays if schedules permit. 

Visit some surrounding parishes, spend quiet moments there in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. And when you encounter visitors to your parish, welcome them as part of the same family of God. 

Read — a real book with pages, not just online — whether it’s a spiritual classic, an inspiring story from history or a text that encouraged you in the past and can renew your focus today. 

Make a retreat, or a day of recollection. Volunteer for your local vacation Bible school or food shelf. Provide activities for children or grandchildren that stimulate their minds and souls, educate them about life skills and the natural world and offer specific time for family prayer. 

Make it a point to see people you don’t often visit; perhaps one person a week or one a month depending on circumstance, but some intentional way to reach out beyond mere good intentions. 

The possibilities are vast, and we can’t do them all. But having some particular plans prevents the summer from simply slipping away. 

While we may give our time to our jobs and chores out of duty, we spend time with friends out of love. Come away with Jesus and rest, and hear him call you “friend.” 

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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