Be Still

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Be Still

By | 2017-01-30T19:55:01+00:00 November 27, 2015|Leisure, Virtue|


Ate too much. Hard to type. Tired. Need nap.

It’s fascinating that people have the energy to beat the dawn for some savings the day after Thanksgiving. Every year brings more stories that lessen one’s faith in American exceptionalism: brawls at retailers, traffic issues, campouts in parking lots. No need to nag, though, it’s self-evidently silly.

By now you may have heard that the major outdoor retailer REI has decided to forgo the lucrative profits of the Black Friday chaos. This has been bolstered by the California park system declaring free park stays on Black Friday to get people outside.

This is encouraging on its own. Chick-Fil-A has been doing this for decades on Sundays. You would know this if you’ve ever worked yourself into a craving for a Spicy Chicken Sandwich with waffle fries, pulled into the drive-thru and the realization hits you that they’re closed, and you slip into deep darkness…

Anyway, these sorts of things can cause shifts in policy and practice. Will other businesses follow suit? Maybe. But doing the right thing, or at least choosing the better part, is good on its own. Christian business owners need to honestly examine their ledgers and hearts to see if they can survive without being open on the Lord’s Day. If they can, they’ll thank themselves later.

Time for leisure is the hallmark of an advanced civilization (you can read Josef Pieper for an excellent treatment of the subject). A quality day in the park never leaves that indigestive regret after a big meal, or the “blech” of emptiness and boredom after the excitement of opening a Playstation 3 wears off (that’s $600 I’ll never get back, and now it sits in storage), or even the mental fog induced by a 100+ commercials per televised NFL game.

Sunday Vespers at the parish used to be a staple. So did a nice Sunday meal. Or a Sunday Drive (or a Sunday nap)! The Sabbath is for our sake, said the Lord Jesus. In other words, “Relax! It’s going to be okay.” We won’t regret taking 1/7 of our lives for a break from consuming or producing.

The Fall of Man involved a grasping of the fruit, an attempt to take something for oneself. There are many times when we are expected to receive gifts from God with a more active cooperation, but we must always remain attentive to the quieter gifts that he asks us to accept.

A constant materialistic grasping numbs our spiritual senses to the invisible realities that a life of relaxation and contemplation makes evident. For example, if one is filled up on Oreos™, he won’t be attentive to the different, more subtle flavors of a nice wine.

In a recent book on the vice of acedia (or sloth as it is sometimes translated), Abbot Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., points out that excessively busying oneself is as much a symptom of acedia as laziness, which, in our culture, may be even more prevalent and pernicious. Acedia is a sadness at the gifts God gives us, often because receiving them fully may also involve a renunciation of some lesser, material goods. And so, like worldly bees, we can busy ourselves to drown out that voice in order to pursue our treasured pleasures with a determined industriousness instead. Here we ought to follow the advice of our Lord to the Psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).

So if it’s not too late, today—but especially on the Lord’s day—take a deep breath and receive the gifts God has given you in his creation and redemption: in the natural beauty of the earth, the friends and family around you, and the worship of his magnificence.

And leave room for that nap.

Image: John Henderson, Black Friday in downtown Seattle at Westlake (CC BY 2.0)


About this Brother:

Br. Dominic Bouck, O.P.
Br. Dominic Bouck was born and raised in Dickinson, North Dakota, the youngest of seven children. He went to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Catholic Studies, and Classical Languages. While at St. Thomas he studied one semester at the Angelicum in Rome, where he came to know the Dominican Friars. On