The Catholic approach to pleasure and leisure?


#1

Hi All,

Interested if anyone could point me to good resources for better understanding how to enjoy holy pleasure and leisure, particularly as it might relate to my vocation as a musician. I write pop/rock music and am very concerned about writing uplifting, “good” lyrics. At the same time, I have not sensed a call to solely write sacred music. I have felt, somewhere inside of me, that there is a place for music that is just “fun.” Music that relaxes and helps one enjoy the lighter side of life. The kind of music you’d play at a BBQ. I grew up in a very serious, somewhat joyless home, and music was what I turned to growing up to lift my spirits.

I’m converting to Catholicism from Mormonism originally (born and raised), and Protestantism. Neither of these traditions helped me understand how to properly “balance” my life. Catholicism is helping me see that there is a time to work, a time to rest. A time to worship, and a time to play…without guilt. In Protestantism in particular, because there aren’t sacraments, worshippers have little data per how to please and commune with God and so the scrupulous can assume the worst: I have to be somber/serious/penitential all the time, because I never know if I’ve done enough to please God. I think this is where that old-ashioned Protestant austerity stems from: whitewash everything, no play or fun, don’t sin. Best to not take one’s eyes off of God and revel in what is “human”.

So, any thoughts on balancing life with play and leisure? Catholics seem to know how to have a good time. Even the idea of “Feast Days” is intriguing to me, as is also the use of the term “celebration” to describe quite a lot of things, including the “celebration” of the Mass. And cultures touched by Catholicism have created some of the best cuisines, music, and art. How exactly does this fit into Catholic spirituality?

Interested in the whole, “growing in holiness and also enjoying life” … thing lol :stuck_out_tongue:


#2

I’m subscribing because I’m very interested in the answers.


#3

Me too! I’d wondered about this topic before, then reading this article piqued my interest:
catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8901


#4

Have not read it but here: ignatius.com/Products/RP-P/reasonable-pleasures.aspx

Also for a philosophical work -Josef Pieper “Leisure the Basis of Culture”


#5

I think it is really quite simple. Moderation in all things.
If the activity is not sinful, take joy and pleasure in it, but keep it in moderation. This will do nothing but increase the joy we find in it.
And remember: We can love drink, but we hate drunkedness; we can love food, but we hate gluttony; we can love leisure, but we hate sloth; we can love sex, but we hate lust.


#6

+JMJ+

Actually according to Catholic morality, it is a sin to play too much (obviously) and to play too little :smiley: Check out the meaning of the virtue of eutrapelia. You can start with St. Thomas Aquinas’ exposition of it: newadvent.org/summa/3168.htm

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

---- Hilaire Belloc


#7

Lol…leave it to the Catholics!

Did my best to digest that–thx for sharing–what a mind St. Thomas had!


#8

Really good point. And forgive me for perhaps way over thinking this!

I think a bit of a roadblock here is the Calvinist in me (via evangelical Protestantism). Calvinism basically teaches that God is the only good being. Human beings are inherently not good. Human beings are good insofar as God works through them and makes them good. The goal of life is to have God working in you and dwelling in you; the more you stay focused and dependent on Him the better.

I think it’s no wonder that Christian rock thrives in an evangelical climate. If God is the only good thing, why sing or think about anything else? Why take one’s mind off of God and sing about a lover, or one’s own life experience? Those things are just distractions.

In a subtle way, the whole evangelical thing started to feel kind of “brainwashing.” Everything was about God in a way that seemed–if it can be so–out of balance! “Jesus be my copilot”…“Jesus take the wheel”…at church every Sunday I felt like all of us worshippers were preying on Jesus, hooking up to the great Iron Lung of our lives. All was wrapped in a veneer that sounded good: “God is perfect and almighty and overseeing everything so give yourself over to Him more. Just focus on Him more, and you less, and He’ll work through you to solve the problem.”

To add to that, in Protestantism, the last judgement is more like…if you believe in Jesus, he throws a blanket over your dirty self so that God doesn’t see your sins. But you’re still sinful old you. Whereas in Catholicism, you have the chance to actually become holy. Not just to be declared so, but to be so.

Just as Catholicism cultivates true holiness in a person, I think it does much more to develop the whole person. It gives us free will, for starters! There is also the validation of the material world because sacraments make use of the material world.

It’s actually a big paradigm shift. I’m not sure how to put this into words…

God should always be #1

But in Catholicism, God is worshipped by living one’s life in a holy way, and this includes exercising your gift of free will, enjoying good things He created, and living out your God-given vocation (which involves developing abilities and talents, and serving your community). It’s an active religion, and all about personal growth.

My second-to-last-straw with Protestantism happened when I heard a pastor say, “God loves the sound of fingers leafing through Bible pages more than any other!” I thought, “I’m so tired of flipping through Bible pages, hunting for the answers, and pleading with the Holy Spirit to make truth known. I’m ready to know the truth so that I can live the truth.”

:slight_smile:


#9

That book was written for me! Jackpot. Ordering. Thank you. :thumbsup:


#10

From Scripture

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4

A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to tear down and a time to build,…
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,


#11

Well stated! :amen:


#12

You are a lot further along to understanding the philosophical differences between protestants and Catholics that most Catholics!!! And its not just Calvinism’s influence in the protestant communities, its also Luther. You point about the blanket being through over us to hide our sinfulness actually originated with Luther, who said we are nothing but a pile of dung, and God’s grace covers us with snow, turning us white.

Yes, the Church teaches we are called to holiness in everything we do: even when we are drinking and being merry. The Church does not condemn the profane, simple because she is focused on the sacred. The profane is also part of God’s creation, so there is nothing wrong with non-sacred music (just leave it out of the liturgy please).

BTW, since you are a former evangelical, you might have had struggles with the concept of purgatory. A priest friend of mine said once: purgatory is one of the most beautiful teachings of the Church, it tells us the God does not give up on our being holy just because we die, he keeps at it!!! I always liked that thought.


#13

Oh, thanks so much for that…

I wonder sometimes if I’m getting anywhere with these comparisons. Glad to know that I might be making progress!

I love, love, your comment about purgatory. You know, the longer I stay in Catholicism, the more that Catholic concepts which used to scare me…become beautiful, and I see mercy in them.

I totally know what you mean about separating the sacred and profane! At evangelical services, the music is always Christian rock from my experience. I love, love, guitars/drums/bass etc. but prefer that sacred music be more “reverent.”

I guess something I’m still working out theologically is…

If the sacred and profane are “different,” can they still be “equal” i.e. both virtuous, just serving different spiritual purposes. Or is it more like, “the profane is not good, but can be tolerated by God when it is not overindulged in.”

I think the former is true…

My reasoning would be thus:

God created us to inhabit this world and to be fully human, to enjoy using our senses, to exercise our bodies, to “have fun” with friends and have good social relationships, to be creative and imaginative. We glorify God by fulfilling the measure of our creation; by being human in all of those different capacities. To deny ourselves any aspect of the “life” experience would be to frustrate God’s purpose and not fully be what He created us to be. We honor God when we enjoy a good dinner with friends, just as we honor Him by worshipping at the Mass. God created us to have multiple dimensions, and this is why balance is important: if we spend all of our time one way, we won’t fulfill the measure of our creation in another. Also, the commandments exist to protect any aspect of our humanity from becoming polluted by selfishness. For example, by being chaste, we free ourselves to enjoy our sexuality more, because it is not corrupted by lust. Sin deadens and always decreases our capacity to enjoy things. Virtue keeps the spirit bright, so that we can more fully experience and enjoy the various facets of life.

A positive view of the life experience accords with the idea of God crafting us into something, and God using this life to that end. Nothing is wasted or meaningless. It can perhaps even help answer why God permited the Fall and our earthly lives to happen at all. As a Catholic I can say, “God used the Fall and earthly life to shape us into authentic Saints for all eternity. Life is a good thing, it exists for our growth, and is to be experienced.” Whereas in Protestantism, there is nothing but the point blank question, “Are you saved?” Makes it seem like our earthly lives are nothing more than a mistake to be offset by a born-again experience!

Thanks for reading all that…


#14

I hesitate to allow this forum to get “off topic,” but per the differences between Protestant and Catholic salvation…

Catholicism states that people have free will and are responsible for what they become. Protestants therefore view the Catholic God as being an unrealistic taskmaster. But, it just occurred to me…

The gift of free will and responsibility should be taken as a huge vote of confidence from God. God must see great potential in humanity because He gives us this opportunity to become holy like Him. Not unlike how a kid feels validated and respected when their parent entrusts a great responsibility to them, instead of just doing that thing for them. Yes, the call to holiness is a challenge, but God says we can do it, and that should make us see a lot of potential in ourselves…

Praise God, Catholic theology just gets more rewarding by the day! :heaven:


#15

[quote=onegirlinchrist]I guess something I’m still working out theologically is…

If the sacred and profane are “different,” can they still be “equal” i.e. both virtuous, just serving different spiritual purposes. Or is it more like, “the profane is not good, but can be tolerated by God when it is not overindulged in.”

I think the former is true…

My reasoning would be thus:

God created us to inhabit this world and to be fully human, to enjoy using our senses, to exercise our bodies, to “have fun” with friends and have good social relationships, to be creative and imaginative. We glorify God by fulfilling the measure of our creation; by being human in all of those different capacities. To deny ourselves any aspect of the “life” experience would be to frustrate God’s purpose and not fully be what He created us to be. We honor God when we enjoy a good dinner with friends, just as we honor Him by worshipping at the Mass. God created us to have multiple dimensions, and this is why balance is important: if we spend all of our time one way, we won’t fulfill the measure of our creation in another. Also, the commandments exist to protect any aspect of our humanity from becoming polluted by selfishness. For example, by being chaste, we free ourselves to enjoy our sexuality more, because it is not corrupted by lust. Sin deadens and always decreases our capacity to enjoy things. Virtue keeps the spirit bright, so that we can more fully experience and enjoy the various facets of life.

A positive view of the life experience accords with the idea of God crafting us into something, and God using this life to that end. Nothing is wasted or meaningless. It can perhaps even help answer why God permited the Fall and our earthly lives to happen at all. As a Catholic I can say, “God used the Fall and earthly life to shape us into authentic Saints for all eternity. Life is a good thing, it exists for our growth, and is to be experienced.” Whereas in Protestantism, there is nothing but the point blank question, “Are you saved?” Makes it seem like our earthly lives are nothing more than a mistake to be offset by a born-again experience!
[/quote]

That’s pretty good, as far as I can tell. I don’t know if I would say the sacred and profane are “equal”, but certainly that the profane can/should also be virtuous. Certainly the profane is much more than something God just tolerates, just as you describe in the last two paragraphs.


#16

A couple of thoughts.

We have one life, one integrated life, to share with God. Hourly, daily.

He wants very much to be with us, intimately, all the time.

Our work should serve God, our leisure should serve God. We should “be with” God in all of our moments.

Our leisure has a purpose in God’s mind. To rest (not to dissipate), to recover, to deepen friendships, to sharpen our gratitude in many ways, perhaps reflecting on God’s marvelous creation, and to grow. Leisure can help us take stock, and to recollect, to help us regroup for hard work again.

A time for everything. Our intention should still be to serve God, not to pursue pleasure for selfish reasons, or mere love of comfort.


#17

That was really beautifully stated!

I think you’re right that God is ultimately at the center of things; perhaps one reason why we have a difficult time “integrating” our lives under God is that we have a one-sided (or man-made?) concept of who God is, and this prevents us from recognizing His presence in the various dimensions of life?

For example, my Mormon father thinks the Catholic “heaven” sounds really boring. To “just” dwell with God would be soooooooo like having to sit in church forever. Of course, we know that won’t be the case: in Heaven we will indescribably happy and with God all the time. So if we’re not looking forward to Heaven, then there’s something about our concept of God that is lacking imo.

Jesuit theology might be relevant here, I believe they are the “finding God in all things” people…


#18

Exactly right. Many people don’t understand that God wants us to be “as if we’re in heaven” right now. When we are in a state of grace, we are sharing in the divine life of the Trinity, here, now. We do so imperfectly of course. But it’s possible, approximate.

Too many people have a “get over the goal line” view of heaven. Sneaking in under the wire, so to speak. What a bland way to live. And risky too.

No, we are to share in the abundant life that exists within the three Persons of the Trinity now. It takes detachment, it takes prayer, Confession, struggle, faith, and lots of “beginning again” but we can do this. We can get a sense (and I am not talking about a feeling really) of this when we love someone, perhaps with great effort. Perhaps doing a favor for someone, against your own pleasure, perhaps moving their house, taking them to a hospital, changing a diaper. But doing it with abandonment, willing the best for them, doing it cheerfully in fact.

God gives us a little sense for what heaven is like in marital intimacy. Union, giving (not taking) and joy. Marital intimacy if it is approached properly…to make our spouse feel as if she is loved as no other in the world…without a care of one’s own pleasure…then God gives us a strong sense for what Divine Union in heaven will be like all the time.

Tell that to your Dad. The Catholic Church teaches that marital union (properly approached) is a foretaste of Divine Union. That’s not boring.

Saint John Paul II’s writing on the Theology of the Body attempts to pull out and describe such matters.

Watch this family safe video by Dr Fitzgibbons. Beautiful. About 6 minutes. Give it to your father.

vimeo.com/14241671


#19

I haven’t read Schall’s book, but did read Pieper in college in the 60’s and recommend it. He was a German Catholic philosopher in the neo-thomistic tradition.


#20

Thank you!


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