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A message from the bishop

How leisure brings us closer to God (July/August 2015)
 
My dear friends,
 
As we enjoy the warm summer weather and relax under trees bedecked with green foliage, it might be difficult for us to recall the barren landscape, sub-zero temperatures and ice-covered roads from just a few months ago. Especially in Michigan, it’s a time to “go out to the great outdoors and get their glad tidings,” to
paraphrase John Muir, the great 19th-century Scottish-American naturalist. It’s also a time for young families to enjoy each other’s company while school’s out for summer. By taking the time for leisure, which is the basis
of culture, we can grow closer to God and each other, and gain a renewed appreciation for the rhythms and beauty of the season.
 
My three sisters and I grew up in Westlake, Ohio, on Cleveland’s West Side. My parents had a plan for summer vacations each year – visiting different parts of the United States. The first vacation I remember was when I was 4, flying to Miami on a turboprop plane. In 1959, we spent two weeks on Nantucket Island
during its 300th anniversary celebration. We went to Williamsburg, Va., three times, and Washington, D.C., in 1960. In 1961, we spent 32 days on the road, driving from Ohio to California and back. In
1962, we visited the Deep South. I think that my interest in history and geography comes from the historical sites and natural wonders we saw on those vacations.
 
When you’re traveling as a family, you spend a lot of time together. You also learn to adapt when things don’t go as planned. On the trip to California, for instance, we had six flat tires, four of them blowouts
at high speeds. It was my job to find the lost hubcap (today that would probably be too dangerous for an
8-year-old boy on a fast twolane road!). We had a 1959 Mercury Colony Park station wagon. The car had a Sears air conditioner over the transmission hump that was either “on”’ or “off,” which made the temperature differences extreme. If the air conditioner was turned on when the car was moving, the fan belt would break! It took a few fan belts for my dad to get used to that peculiar feature.
 
My summer vacations have changed since those trips of long ago. In fairly recent years, a number of my summer vacations included travels to Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula. Now things are reversed:
I work in Michigan and vacation in Ohio! This summer, I will take some time to go back to Ohio and see family and friends (with some golf, perhaps). Every August, there is also an opportunity for the bishops
of Ohio and Michigan to spend time together for three or four days. This year we’ll be in Michigan. We will probably see a Tigers game and we might spend time on Lake St. Clair; but most of all, I enjoy the time simply spent relaxing and visiting with my brother bishops. I will hear of some great experiences, and I always pick up helpful advice. It’s refreshing to get away from the usual routine.
 
Nowadays we can be in constant communication with family members through texting, email, cell phones and social media. But even the latest and best technology cannot replace being face-to-face in the presence of others – a far richer experience! As someone who doesn’t see his family and friends very often, I can certainly appreciate the difference.
 
Wherever you may go this summer, it is important to remember the old cliché, “There is no vacation from vocation.” Our family, when traveling on vacation, never missed Mass. This was something that we all took for granted. Besides, it was interesting to visit new Catholic churches and experience Mass in Yosemite National Park; Logan, Utah; Las Vegas, Nev. or Belleville, Ill., just to name a few of the places we visited. Even though we were travelers from out of state, we always felt like we belonged. When you
take time for Mass during vacation, you teach a very valuable lesson to your family: God matters, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
 
Summer is a beautiful time to practice the Golden Rule. Vacation trips are great fun, but traveling as a family can be challenging, even stressful. There will be many opportunities to be kind and considerate to
loved ones and strangers alike. We start in small ways, with a smile, a greeting, an act of courtesy. Such things are within the travel budget of even the youngest vacationer!
 
Michigan is a summer destination for many vacationers. Even if you don’t travel this summer, I hope you will take time for leisure and “a change of scenery.” Personal experience has taught me that it is time
well-spent!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak