Wholesome & Relaxing Recreation
for Exhausted Catholics
I wonder if you could give us ideas and examples on how men, women and children may refresh themselves in a wholesome way during leisure time.
Seeking honest recreation for an exhausted working woman
I am also wondering about quieter activities to refresh the mind that would be good for someone whose job is mentally taxing. When I worked as a high school teacher, there were many days when I could not bring myself to read a book when I had the leisure time at home, even though reading is one of my favorite activities. I found that often my mind was too weary for the task. I would use this as an excuse to slip into watching television or surfing the internet, and after the fact would lament the time I had wasted.
I would also ask for your prayers as I prepare for my upcoming wedding.
It is admirable of you to desire to better order your time and to avoid wasting it on mindless exploits on the internet or television. Indeed, Holy Scripture clearly states, “Idleness hath taught much evil” (Eccl 33:29).
Recreation, however, is an important part of a Catholic’s day for it allows him to have the necessary relaxation to be able to perform his other duties well. There are many pleasant and relaxing activities that were enjoyed by people of the past before the invasion of electronic devices.
Physical recreation that is suitable to both men and women and healthful to the body and mind is walking through city or town streets or hiking in a natural setting. To understand how to hike with a Catholic Spirit read here, here and here. Men of the past walked much more than we do today. The daily activities of town and country folk engaged them in walks, serving practical as well as communal ends as they greeted or visited with family and friends.
St. Therese watches the stars on a walk with her father
A lady should avoid becoming a part of this “workout” mindset, for it often encourages a masculine way of being, and it nearly always causes concessions in modesty – through her own clothing or by fostering tolerance for the extremely immodest attire of others at the gym (see here and here). We hope to address this topic in more detail in a later article.
A man has more liberty to engage in physical exercise since it is his duty to protect women and the weak, and to be able to do this it is ideal that he should be physically fit and maintain his strength. He should take caution, however, to practice custody of the eyes should he find himself – as he surely will – around the immodestly clad men and women who frequent the gyms. If he finds this difficult, private exercise is advisable or friendly sports games with other like-minded men (see this article on wrestling to consider a Catholic way to play popular sports).
An apartment garden can blossom into a relaxing hobby & spot to rest
The herb gardener may be inclined to dabble in making his own medicinal concoctions as he learns the medicinal value of the plants he is growing. One of the corners of his house, garage or apartment can be transformed into a home apothecary.
Music & artwork
In answer to your second question, there are numerous calm activities in which you can spend your leisure time that can lift your spirit and relax your mind. We will list a few:
Families of the past singing & playing instruments together
To counter the evil that modern music has encouraged, one can make the not-so-taxing effort to learn folk songs and hymns to sing during your time of recreation. Once learned, you will be able to enjoy the delight of singing even after a mentally trying day.
Playing a musical instrument is another form of recreation that it is admirable to revive, as it is far better to play your own instrument than to listen passively to recordings. Recordings, however, can be helpful in this modern world that leaves its inhabitants drained and listless. There are many good albums and playlists of classical music, folk songs, chants and hymns that can be a good alternative to modern pop music and fill your heart and soul with delight.
You mentioned that you often were so tired that you could not read in the evenings, but there are ways that you can enjoy perusing books even when exhausted. Picture books are very helpful for this situation. There are numerous picture books available showing visuals of maps, nature, landscapes of different countries, historical costumes, cities of the past and artwork of famous painters.
You will need to take some precautions with painters, however, since the time of the Renaissance art has been tainted by the Revolution. We hope to begin a series on art soon, advising good painters like Fra Angelico and warning against the occult ones like Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.
Reading aloud or looking at beautiful photos in books, a relaxing pastime
Calligraphy – for ladies and men – is another good pastime that accomplishes two aims: it improves the handwriting and the repetitive exercises soothe and calm the nerves. If you are too tired to read, pick up your calligraphy pen, or even a fountain pen, and practice your strokes and letters. Even following a simple Palmer Handwriting book is a good exercise.
Another relaxing pastime enjoyed in the past was sketching or painting. Children in better homes had their small easels and were already learning to observe nature and the things around them and recreate them on paper. If you have an artistic bent, this is a wonderful pastime.
Stories around the hearth
Families of the past used to sit around their hearths in the evening telling stories of ancient times and local lore. This enjoyable past time has nearly disappeared in this world of spontaneous mass-produced entertainment. Where it is possible, the custom of reading a book or story aloud to the family could easily be restored.
Story telling brings together the whole family
Even if you are by yourself, you may find that you enjoy reading some of these lighter stories and fairy tales that are meant to be enjoyed by the young and old. TIA has a large collection of legends that may fit your needs. If you are too tired to read, you could also listen to audio books as you sit in your living room or patio.
While telling stories around the hearth, the family often engaged in simple arts and tasks with their hands. Men mended tools, whittled or engaged in other small projects. Women enjoyed embroidery, cross-stitching, knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting or drawing. Such simple and meditative activities would be suitable for you to learn and adopt as part of your recreation.
Embroidery, knitting & strumming a guitar
Lastly, one of the most relaxing and contemplative activities that is simple to do is to observe the natural world. Observing the birds in one's yard or neighborhood and learning to identify them opens a charming new world for a child or an adult. Learning the names and attributes of the flowers, herbs and trees in your region leaves one in awe at the goodness and immensity of the Creator.
The joy of contemplating nature for men & women
God has given such beauty to nature and has imbued His creation with symbolism that Catholics of the past delighted in contemplating. You may find that sitting in your backyard, in a park or in the woods to observe the plants and animals around you will give you a peace that no television program ever could.
If you would like to understand more the symbolism of nature as seen by the medieval man, you may find our articles on Religious Symbolism enlightening.
We hope that these suggestions give you some new ideas of how to enjoy recreation with a Catholic spirit.
TIA correspondence desk