The final bell rings marking the end of the school year—and the mad rush for the exits ensues. Many of us can remember that highly anticipated and energetic time of our youth. It is a time of hope for a new day, a time of planning on summer camps, a time of family vacations. And so often, we also think of it as a time to take vacation from Church…
Family time—including taking a vacation together—is vital to the health of our relationship with our loved ones. There is nothing more important than keeping the Gift of the Family healthy and whole and dedicated to God. That does not mean that to be a healthy family, an extravagant trip is needed. How healthy is it to take a “vacation” from the one thing that nourishes us as a family: Christ? How healthy can it be to remove ourselves from the one place where Jesus Christ is revealed in His Fullness: the Divine Liturgy? This week, as the summer planning sessions are beginning in earnest, let us take some time to prioritize our family life so that our summer vacations can reflect our values in Christ. When we set our family time priorities, it is important to list them in the same manner as our personal ones, keeping in mind the one thing needful: Our Relationship with Christ! Each family should take some time to determine what is truly important to them. Below is a suggested list of priorities for the top five of any list:
1) Family Relationship to God.
The family should always take time to pray together in the home. Where is your family altar/shrine in your house?
2) Family Relationship to one another.
Communication is the key to love: How often do you sit and talk as a family? Do you have regular meals together?
3) Family Relationship to the Church and parish life.
Participation as a family in the Divine Services and the life of the parish is an essential part of any family’s spiritual growth.
4) Finding a balance between working and providing for the family and loving the family relationally.
It is important to balance work and family life—especially in the compartmentalized lives we lead here in the United States. This is why it is sometimes necessary for families to take a vacation together so that those who work may have an opportunity to dedicate time—our most important Gift—to loved ones. This doesn’t mean that this time needs to be an extravagant expense—just dedicated to family. What about while on a beach vacation, look up the closest Orthodox Church and be sure to attend? What about taking some time to volunteer at a FOCUS location or homeless shelter while enjoying said trip? Or, what about taking a trip to help out in at the orphanages in Kosovo and Metohija, or if that’s too far, at Project Mexico and the St. Innocent Orphanage?
5) Family relationship toward the community.
It is important to for the family to also keep in mind how we interact with the least—those placed in our lives as opportunities to reach out in Christian Love. Are we involved in our Diocesan Events and Church Camps? Are we involved in helping to feed the hungry in our community? Do we visit the sick, shut-in, or imprisoned? Are we dedicated to helping in the community?
This week, let us decide if we are living for this temporary life, or if our focus and attention remains on our eternal Life in Christ. This week—let us plan for a Summer Vacation that helps our Salvation!