“Then Jesus said, “Let us go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31. He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles did not even have time to eat.
The importance of Holy Friendships – As many of you know, I have finally had a chance to get away for another week of vacation with some priest friends from our Archdiocese. Fr. Drew Royals from St. Joseph’s Parish has a family lake house in North Carolina that we stayed at last year. The trip was such a blessing to us that on the last day in the parking lot, we said we return and immediately booked a week for the next year to gather again. This year there were five of us, and what a blessing it had been.
So, you may be asking what do priests do on vacation? The most important thing we do is offer mass together, though much later in the morning than normal, thanks be to God! We pray the Liturgy of the hours, which every priest is to pray five times a day (office, morning, daytime, evening, and night). Some of them we pray together and others on our own. We visit a local parish and make an hour-long visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where we commune with the Lord in silence, letting Him speak in the depths of our hearts. We also pray the rosary together. Never leave home without the rosary!
I know you are thinking this sounds more like a retreat then a vacation. But what would a vacation be like for any Christian, and especially a priest, if a significant part of it were not spent with the one you all love the most. With no phone calls, emails, text, and unexpected visitors to take you away from Him. But obviously, we do more than just the spiritual, though this is the heart of our lives, as should be for every Christian (though one does not need to do all we do).
We take the time to have great conversations about the other great loves of our lives …. Wait …. Wait, yes, you guys! Those we serve in ministry. Some call it a talking shop. We call it our greatest joy and greatest cross. I think every parent can say the same. We talk about what is happening, the good and the bad. We talk about our plans to try to serve God and His holy people better and how we feel we are doing and ask for advice. We talk about the church universal as well as our own archdiocese. We share deeply about our joys and our struggles, and we encourage each other in the Lord. We also take turns cooking meals, but not me. I am not good at it. I would rather clean dishes any day. If it is warm enough, we swim in the lake, and some go fishing or ride on the boat. But at the center of it all is fellowship in the Lord.
Last year, some asked me, how was your vacation? I said, it was the best one of my whole life. I spent it with my brothers, and it centered on our Lord. I feel that I came back from it more refreshed, encouraged in the Lord, and ready to climb Mount Calvary than ever before.
Please pray for us. This year has been more trying than any of us could have ever imagined. Yet the Lord has seen us through and now wishes us to come away to rest awhile with Him, as He did in the gospels with the apostles. May we rest and return to serve you better and more on fire then we left. All Glory be to God!
Your Father and Brother in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods