The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” human life has a rhythm of work and rest. (paragraph 2184) But do you find that even when you have a lazy weekend, you’re still tired and don’t feel rested at all?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ and Fr. Stephen Spencer, OSJ discussed rest, why it’s important, and why having a Catholic understanding of rest can actually help you feel less exhausted and more alive.
Fr. Stephen explained that the way we often think about rest is all wrong. He said, “We look at work and rest as opposites. With work I’m doing lots of stuff, I’m getting lots of things done. So rest must just be the absence of work, sitting on the couch watching football games all Sunday. When, in fact, as Catholics that’s not what we believe rest is.”
“Rest, in its truest sense, restores us,” he explained. “But it’s not just the absence of doing things. It’s doing things that truly restore and recreate. So recreation, our rest in a certain sense, at its best should restore us, should renew us.”
Fr. Matthew elaborated on this idea, saying, “We might say it’s about using the fullness of who we are. Not just working hard an an end result, but also realizing that God made us for play. God made us to enjoy His creation and to build it up. And that happens in real healthy leisure as well.”
And this Catholic concept of rest is actually supported by science. Fr. Matthew pointed out, “When we look at the science behind the way people use their time on the weekends, it seems that when people watch a lot of TV, when they veg out completely, in fact when they get to Monday they are not as rejuvenated as those who are keeping themselves busy over the weekend.”
Fr. Stephen agreed that though there is nothing wrong with watching TV or scrolling through social media, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t feel rejuvenated after doing those activities. And it’s a good idea to ask ourselves whether we are actually resting or merely wasting time when we pull up our screens.
“We don’t actually rest, we don’t actually restore ourselves by watching TV throughout the day,” Fr. Stephen said. “Not that it’s bad in proper quantities, but our rest is not real rest when we are just wasting time. There are other things that we can do that really give us new life, that really refresh us and renew us. Staring at a screen doesn’t have that same effect.”
So the next time you have an opportunity for rest, be mindful of how you are spending your time. Are you doing things that help you become renewed and radiate God’s love and joy? Or are you wasting the time the Lord has given you, and feeling burned out in the process?
“We were made for work, so there needs to always be a balance between work and rest,” Fr. Matthew said. “Unless we’re convalescing or something, we have to actually be putting our energies and lives toward furthering the Gospel.”