"How do we find re-creation?  We may not even recognize we need it, especially in a society addicted to only doing. Yet the world is teeming with opportunities for re-creation and we can find it in surprisingly many ways," Marrocco writes. CNS photo

Questioning Faith: Discovering our moments of re-creation

  • June 4, 2018

Driving with a young friend, I was not surprised that she had the car window completely down and her face turned towards the breeze on one of these finally-gentle days of spring.  I enjoyed her enjoyment of the sweet fresh air sweeping in. 

When we got to the highway, my request to close the window was not welcomed, despite offers of air conditioning.  The only thing that reconciled her was the radio: “I need sounds, music, any noise, anything but my own thoughts, my own self.”

Her instinct was understandable, though her method was not practical. The Spirit was groaning within her in sighs too deep for words. She needed re-creation, soul and body. She had no knowledge of this kind of language and could not name her experience this way.

Many of us, young or not, struggle with such inner need. Often we try to escape or express it through distractions that are far too small and brittle to hold it. One day, Pope Francis was giving a talk to priests.  He described to them a group of young people who had come to see him.  When he went to meet the young people, he was perplexed to see most of them greeting him with one arm raised — not to wave, but with a smartphone to take a photograph or video.  The youth were delightful, he explained, but “virtualized.” He reflected on how to help ground them, saying they need to “touch reality.” 

How can we help each other come back to our inner source of life? 

We try to find re-creation, but often it gets translated into consumerism, superficial tourism, partying or hyperactivity.  There is nothing wrong with doing things, all sorts of things. It’s just that it doesn’t take much to harden us and lead us away from the very thing we are seeking. 

Like my young friend, we turn from the refreshing breeze to noise, and wonder why our holidays leave us anxious and depressed. As movie character Patricia observed to Joe, on their way to the volcano: “I’m soul-sick.” We all need re-creation, body and soul.

I recall my parents, in their latter years, talking about people they knew who took holidays in far-away places. “Why didn’t we ever take holidays?” one of them wondered. The other responded: “Because we had eight kids instead!” You don’t take holidays from parenthood. And, as Pope Francis reminded the clergy, priests do not take holidays from priesthood. We can’t take holidays from our vocation, whatever it is.  But we can, and must, find re-creation in it. 

There is a beautiful tension here. We discover something when we stay and meet this tension, rather than trying to solve or get out of it.

How do we find re-creation?  We may not even recognize we need it, especially in a society addicted to only doing. Yet the world is teeming with opportunities for re-creation and we can find it in surprisingly many ways. Here are some.

My teacher, Fr. George, had one way. He started each day with three hours of silent prayer in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.  People asked him if he ever took a holiday from it. He would answer, “Do you take a holiday from breathing?”

Here’s another way: It’s good for the soul to lean back, face turned upward to a window of sky curtained by delicately-traced greenery of leaves, and watch the white clouds drift slowly through the blue. Gentle, ever-moving, contemplative.

And another way: One night I participated in a community supper at the end of a pleasant but tiring day of work. Two people had spent the afternoon preparing the meal. They brought to the table a huge pan, and for a moment everybody sat and gazed at it. Glowing, translucent jewels of red, yellow and orange were filled with fragrant meat, rice and herbs: stuffed peppers, accompanied by freshly-made warm bread with country butter. Before anybody picked up a fork, someone said: “This is sacred.” 

Could these be moments of re-creation, making our ordinary time rich?

After his experience with the virtualized youth, Pope Francis had a suggestion.  He begged his listeners to help young people “land” by giving them works of mercy to do. 

Not to take away the smart devices or other activities of our era, but to add the grounding experience of genuine, real-life service, something concrete by which people touch reality.

By staying in the tension, we can allow real life to happen. This is human, and it is divine. Our souls need to feel the breeze on our faces.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a bishop and teacher writing in the second century, urged his flock: “Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of God´s fingers.” This is what ordinary time is for. 

(Marrocco can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca)