By the time you read this message, I will be on vacation at the Jersey shore.
Being raised in Wildwood-by-the-Sea, NJ, I grew up loving the beach and boardwalk. I still like to soak in the sun when I am able, although I get continual warnings from my skin doctor to “be sure to use your sun-block!” I am spending most of this vacation time at the shore with mom. So far the weather has not cooperated too well with a prediction of continual intermittent thunderstorms all week. Oh well!
As a former high school teacher I told my students hundreds of times that there is no vacation from God—especially during their summer and holiday breaks. Now I find myself with my mom on a brief summer vacation while trying to maintain some semblance of a prayer life. I inevitably pack a small “Mass kit” which enables me to offer Mass no matter where I am. Mass can be celebrated privately in mom's condo on a daily basis. It is so convenient for her (and me) that her son is a priest!
Maybe I’m strange, but if I were not a priest, Mass would be an important consideration for me as part of my vacation. I would want to travel where God was not something of an afterthought--just one activity among many. There are various apps that you can download on your phone these days, as well as the web site MassTimes.org, enabling the traveler to find a Catholic Mass while on vacation. The excuses for not knowing where and when a Mass can be found are becoming more bogus.
Years ago, the summer Mass schedule in Wildwood was unbelievable. Mass was celebrated almost every hour in St. Ann Church and alternately every half hour in the Wildwood Catholic High School gym and auditorium. There were somewhere around twenty to twenty-five Masses each weekend. If I included the Masses in Wildwood Crest (Assumption Church) the number would be well over thirty each week. The total today in all three locations is ten (including one in Spanish). Do you see any pattern here?
I walked the boardwalk last night as I frequently do. My fitbit told me I achieved over 17,000 steps--well over my daily goal of 10,000 (or 5 miles). I love to observe the many people visiting this shore resort, although I am not always edified by their language or behavior.
When St. Paul came to Corinth, it was a notorious sea port filled with vice. When he went to Rome, he had to face the immorality and corruption within the Roman Empire. All the cities he visited had their own particular problems and degrees of sinful behavior. To the people of Ephesus, he wrote the following:
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5: 1-5)
I hope and pray that we all desire to have some inheritance in the Kingdom of God. This means that we all must strive continually to conform our lives to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures--even while on vacation.
There is never really a vacation from God!
Fr. Ed Namiotka