By Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
People all over the world view our American culture as centered on work. Our Puritan ancestors gave us a work ethic which drives many Americans to work more hours each week than any other people. Americans are, they say, a people who live to work, rather than a people who work to live.
Yet if we reflect on our own experiences of vacations and holidays, we begin to see that our activity-driven life is not necessarily good for us physically, mentally or spiritually. After a true break away from whatever we consider our normal activity, we find we are more productive, more energized and more engaged than before when we may have been absorbed by work. Recreation really gives us an opportunity to "re-create" our selves.
Our own summer breaks ended a few weeks ago. Labor Day has come and gone. As we get back into the swing of our work here at SLU as students, faculty and staff, we can, with some clear and real benefit to our lives and our work, reflect on the lessons we learn from these renewing, re-creating experiences.
If breaks from the grind of our daily, ordinary tasks are beneficial, then might we not have more of them? Now, no one suggests or condones slacking from work or advocating more official holidays. Rather, this can challenge each of us to examine our lives and how we might find times and places to give ourselves some time away-physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Whether we commit to regular prayer, a short walk, a longer retreat-type of experience or an activity completely different from what we usually do, this time away from the hustle and bustle of whatever we consider our normal day (five minutes or 30 minutes, perhaps), will give us a similar experience as our longer experiences away from work. We can learn to see and to place work in balance in our lives, so that we don't live to work but work to live.
Our University Mission calls us to pursue truth for the greater glory of God and the service of humanity. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, calls us to cultivate and live in moderation and balance in all things, and not excess in any things. That's real service to ourselves...and we're all part of humanity.
For more information about mission programs at SLU, visit the Division of Mission and Ministry website.