It’s OK to take the summer lying down

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

For over 10 years now, Jesuit Father Frank Moan has been my hero.

Back on Valentine’s Day 2005, this wise 77-year-old priest wrote an article in America magazine that warmed my heart and legitimized a venerable practice that I picked up during my studies in Rome (and have missed ever since returning to the States): the siesta.

Father Frank’s article was entitled, “In Praise of Horizontal Prayer.” I’ll let him take it from here: “By horizontal prayer I mean, literally, horizontal: when I’m on my back, in bed. Age has taught me that I do some of my best praying in bed. I still advocate that parents teach their children to kneel at bedside in the evening to say their prayers. But my knees will no longer let me get down there. And if I do get down, I would have to call out to someone else in the rectory to get me up. God understands. In fact, I think God can’t wait till I get flat on my back in bed.”

Oh, Father Frank, I hear you! The older I get, the more I embrace horizontal prayer. And now that The Leaven is moving into its every- other-week summer schedule, I anticipate going horizontal much more often. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

We all need the more relaxed pace of summer. It’s a chance to reset our equilibrium. And it’s absolutely essential to all aspects of our health.

David Slagle of Atlanta emphasizes that point in his story about a phone call he received from a woman from work. Her car had broken down about two miles from the office and she was stranded. Here’s what transpired next:

I drove over there and found her leaning against her car, looking flustered. I asked what happened.

“Well,” she said, “I was just driving down the road, and the car quit running.

“Could you be out of gas?” I asked.

“No, I just filled it up,” she replied.

That one question pretty well exhausted my automotive diagnostic abilities, but I persisted. “What happened? Did it make any noise?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “As I was driving down the hill, it went brump, brump, brump, POW!”

I asked, “When was the last time you changed your oil?”

“Oil?” she said, puzzled.

It turned out that she’d owned the car for 18 months and had never changed the oil.

Slagle notes that he gets that same look when asking frazzled friends, “When was the last time you took a Sabbath rest?” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, editors.)

If we want to avoid the brump, brump, brump, POW! in our physical, spiritual and emotional lives, then we need to take a break from business as usual and let the “oil” of summertime leisure seep into us. In addition to honoring veterans this Memorial Day weekend, make time to plan fun and restful activities to pursue over these next few months. Father Frank might tell you that planning is best done reclining. A chaise lounge or hammock would do nicely . . . as would a nice cold beverage nearby.

To get started and help change gears from the seriousness that so often depresses us, lie back and ooze into the lightheartedness of summer by pondering these questions:

  • If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about it?
  • If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • How is it that we put a man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
  • Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
  • Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?
  • When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
  • Is Disney World the only people trap operated by a mouse?
  • Why do the “Alphabet Song” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” have the same tune?

Just one last question: Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

This coming summer, get horizontal every chance you get, and may God slather you with the “oil of gladness.”

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