This post is for the benefit of those (often scrupulous individuals) who “… strain at an ideal of virtue” (Jesus to Sr. Josefa) that God does not ask of them, and are thus left feeling overcome, despondent, discouraged, anxious, confused etc. Surely these souls are the minority (the overwhelming majority need to make more time for God!), yet this topic is rarely addressed and it is important.
God does not call us each to the same degree of sanctity:
“Many souls exhaust themselves in efforts, in acts of generosity, which leave their soul bruised an impoverished, because they strain at an ideal of virtue, of sanctity that I do not ask of them. They will be rewarded for their pure intention and their generosity, but their efforts do not produce the fruit that they would produce if they were united to My will.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity (no. 555)
“It must be remembered that divine requests are not the same for all souls, even when the souls are called to walk identical ways. What Jesus would ask from a cloistered nun, He wouldn’t require in same way from a nun with an active life, and even less from a person living in the world. He doesn’t even expect to get the same thing from all those who are cloistered as He did from Sr. Consolata…” – Fr. Lorenzo Sales (spiritual director of Sr. Consolata Betrone; taken from ‘The Littlest Way of Love’)
To “pray always” does not mean to perpetually engage in mental or vocal prayer:
“Doesn’t St. Paul tell us that we must sanctify even our mundane actions like eating, drinking, sleeping? Therefore, a restful moment, an honest recreation, can also be sanctified by love and thus transformed into love.” – Fr. Lorenzo Sales
St. Therese of Lisieux, “The greatest Saint of modern times” (St. Pope Pius X) was often known to simply think of God and love Him in that way. We would do well to adopt this method; at least once we have advanced in the ways of prayer- when our prayers naturally become simpler. We should not let ourselves be weighed down by an excessive amount of devotions or vocal prayers; that is, if they are unecessary and act as an impediment to our spiritual growth.
We need time for leisure:
“It is actually a defect [against prudence] to be so strict, austere and unsociable that one permits neither oneself nor others any recreation time.” – St. Francis de Sales (In III 31)
“From time to time one must recreate and relax in mind and body.” – St. Francis de Sales (In III 31)
“The teacher who is seen only in the classroom and nowhere else, is a teacher and nothing more; but let him go with his boys to recreation and he becomes a brother.” – St. John Bosco
“To take the air, to go for a stroll, to enjoy a friendly chat, to play music, or sing or hunt…are such honest diversions that the only thing needed to utilize them well is simple prudence, which gives to all things their rank, time, place and measure.” – St. Francis de Sales (In III 31)
“Games in which winning results from bodily or mental dexterity or activity… provide good relaxation and are perfectly justified.” – St. Francis de Sales (In III 31)
“Strive never to lose this supernatural outlook, not even at times of rest or recreation, which are as important in our daily lives as is work itself.” – St. Josemaria Escriva (Friends of God, 10)
“The story goes that a hunter happened upon St. John the Evangelist holding and caressing a partridge. The hunter expressed astonishment that one with so eminent a mind would waste time on so insignificant a thing. St. John answered him by posing a question: “Why is your bow not always taut?” “For fear,” replied the hunter, “that in remaining taut like that, it would have no force at all when I needed to use it.” “So, then do not be surprised,” said the Apostle, “If I rest my mind from time to time. It will be more dedicated to reflection as a result.” – St. Francis de Sales (In III 31)
The saints devoted time to leisure:
“St. Charles Borromeo, the holy 16th century archbishop of Milan, was known to relax by playing chess. Once he was asked what he would do if he were told by an angel that he would die within an hour. The saint replied that he would continue playing chess for, – even as a form of relaxation – he would had begun it for the glory of God, and he knew of nothing better than to be called from this world while performing an action for that purpose.”
“Sr. Consolata never allowed herself a voluntary absence from the communal recreations. Far from being taciturn, she showed herself to be full of life. In a few instances she composed, and even read, some poems (rhymed poetry). When the community would gather near the radio to hear the voice of the Holy Father, or to follow certain religious ceremonies, she always participated with full spiritual joy. She loved song and willingly took part. Had she been permitted, she would voluntarily have learnt the art of painting. In the parlour, with her parents or acquaintances, she was able to blend a religious reserve with easiness and amiability. She was never at a loss for spirit filled words, especially when it became necessary to recover discourses that were taking dangerous turns, etc.” Fr. Lorenzo Sales
Furthermore, Sr. Benigna painted, St. Therese performed in plays, St. Teresa and her “sisters” engaged in leisurely activities (such as singing) daily, Bl. Dina wrote and performed music, Ven. Fulton Sheen was an avid reader etc.
Doing God’s will is the greatest prayer:
“Never lose sight of the fact that the Jesus whom you behold dying on the Cross at the end of His mortal career, is the same Jesus who for thirty years shared the life which is common to all men, in the bosom of His own family; and He is the same Jesus who all during His three years’ ministry sat down to table with men and joined in their banquets. And Jesus was holy, Consolata, the holiest of all men!” – Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone
If we have been lazy and ungrateful, Jesus can repair our past:
“Should it happen that you have spent the greater part of your life in impiety and indifference, and that the sudden approach of the hour of death fills you with blinding despair… Oh! do not let yourself be deceived, for there is still time for pardon. If only one second of life remains to you, in that one second you can buy back eternal life!” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez