CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
It was at some point last semester, probably early October, that I realized just how much I’d squandered my time at Franciscan University of Steubenville in my three-plus years on this hill.
It was a Friday, and I had planned to attend the 4:45 p.m. Mass with some friends, followed by a holy half-hour in the Port afterward. Alas, as Mass approached, I realized I couldn’t go to Mass because I needed to finish some work on a tight deadline.
I was, however, able to make to the holy half. As I walked out of Louis-Liz free of any academic or work burdens for the weekend and began descending the stairs to meet my friends in the Port, I took an inventory of my surroundings: crisp air, “golden hour” lighting, birds chirping and students taking in the beauty of God’s creation.
It felt as if it was the first time I was able to do this since my freshman orientation.
I dove right into doing, doing, doing right out of the gate. Writing for the Troub, taking on different leadership roles, joining household, becoming a resident assistant and more. I always felt as if there was something else I needed to get done, more catching up I needed to do. And with that, I missed a lot of chances to experience not just crisp October afternoons with my friends but also opportunities for self-growth, especially spiritually.
I’m not complaining. The different experiences and opportunities I’ve had here have helped me grow in many ways. But they came at a cost.
One of the things I remember the most freshman year, apart from learning how easy it was for me to stay up past midnight on a regular basis, was reading Josef Pieper’s “Leisure, the Basis of Culture” in my Philosophy of the Human Person class. It was that reading that gave me a glimpse of what I wanted to achieve in my own life.
In this 1940s essay, Pieper calls leisure the “first foundation of any culture”: “Leisure is not the attitude of the one who intervenes but of the one who opens himself; not of someone who seizes but of one who lets go.” Leisure is a required part of life, and it’s not just taking a break from work to watch Netflix.
Rather, leisure is the opportunity for one to remove themselves from the workaday world and contemplate the world and reality. As Michael Naughton of the University of St. Thomas writes, leisure “helps us to be authentically free to be who we were meant to be, not merely free to do whatever we want.”
Of course, the hard part is setting aside the time necessary to enter into this leisure, and I think that’s where a lot of us get caught. Work, household, mission and ministry are all worthy endeavors and good for us to pursue. However, we can sometimes take our Christian desire to serve overboard to the point that we’re always giving our time away to other things, never taking some for our own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap, as I wrote earlier. Many of us have. But soon enough, the time will come for us to leave Franciscan University and all the opportunities we’ve been presented. For most of us, we won’t ever again be in such a place that offers as many resources and opportunities to grow as a fully-formed Christian as we are now.
As graduation looms on the horizon, I have become acutely aware of this and of how I have allowed too many opportunities to pass without taking advantage of them. That’s not going to be the case anymore. While it might mean cutting down in other areas, I know it’s for my own good, and I would encourage all of you — especially my fellow seniors — to do the same.