Fr.PatHeppeThey have finally arrived! In 1963, singer Nat King Cole described them as crazy days of summer as he sang: “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer / those days of soda and pretzels and beer.”

Our description of these days may not be exactly like Cole’s but summer is indeed a special time and deserves some reflection, as well as some planning.

Spiritual writers, including St. John Paul II, described the necessity of “Holy Leisure.”  This is an important part of building up the spirit to do the work of the Lord as one of his disciples. This is a good description of summer and I intend to spend some “effort” on including “holy” leisure in my plans. But there is more.

Summer is a time of relationship. I hear people talk about the long, cold Wisconsin winters where they never see their neighbors. It’s cold and, unless they’re out shoveling snow, we don’t see one another.

With summer there’s gardening, outdoor home repair and, hopefully, some patio or porch sitting.

This is a great time to stop over and say hello and, as Cole might recommend, bring soda, pretzels or beer to share and to talk. Those special, leisurely times of conversation are important. The conversation has to be more than Brewers baseball or the dismal outlook of U.S. politics.

Talk about those important things in your life. Talk about your family, your faith, your hopes and dreams. Talk about God and the church. Invite someone to join you for Mass and go for breakfast afterward.

Summer is vacation time for many. Some families take time to get away as a family. Camping, a special trip or even a cruise is a great time of family fun and bonding. Again, make it special with some meaningful conversation.

And yes, don’t forget Mass.

During the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, remember your relationship with God, the giver of all these gifts. A quiet walk with God in the country or in the park is important. These “God and I” times can even be life changing.
Spend some time in this type of prayer. I find a good bicycle ride or a walk at Pike Lake State Park in Hartford is an important part of my summer bonding with God.

And Mass. Did I forget Mass? Not by a longshot! Unfortunately, I’ve spoken to too many Catholics who take a summer vacation from Mass. This type of “vacation” weakens the important relationship with God.

I’ve also spoken to numerous Catholics who vacation and make finding a church near their campsite or vacation destination a priority. They sing the praises about many of their experiences and how the community or the priest they met at this “vacation” Mass enhanced their faith considerably.

Many parishes include a Sunday evening Mass for their parishioners and neighbors. I know of numerous families who plan weekend activities that include Sunday evening Mass. This is a great way to end the weekend and to begin the work week.

Including God in your vacation plans is a must for a good spiritual summer. Enjoy the warmth of those days and strengthen all those relationships.

I’m not sure if Jesus ever had a beer with his followers, but we know they enjoyed the local wine. “Sit a spell.” Spend some time on that relationship with God, be it over coffee, water, a beer or whatever.