Parish Life: Asleep in the light

Thu, Aug 20th 2015 01:00 pm
Director of Parish Life and Evangelization
Dennis Mahaney
Dennis Mahaney

Sleep studies are growing in popularity this summer, as people realize the importance of sleep for personal health.

I may find time to stretch out on the beach and seek moments of sleepy escape from life, but everyone knows the folly of falling asleep at the beach, right?

Yet, it is so tempting to just fall asleep in the warmth of the light. I confess that, as the summer warms up, I feel a case of spiritual narcolepsy coming on. How about you?

Back in the '70s, Christian singer and songwriter Keith Green sang a wake-up call that Pope Francis is now echoing.This warning is less about the numbers of those who live, as if in the dark, without Christ. Rather, it is for the even more troubling number of us who are falling asleep in the light.

In his 1978 hit song "Asleep in the Light," Green insisted, "The world is sleeping in the dark, that the Church just can't fight, 'cause it's asleep in the light."

Vacation can cause a degree of spiritual narcolepsy. Spiritual sleepwalkers can see their faith as a thing that they either do or avoid doing. They can think of the Church as a place, not a people.

For them, Mass can seem optional, and worship just another monotony to escape on vacation. These people also might not think about how their own Facebook posts and YouTube viewing habits might resemble the habits of people of little or no faith.

Spiritual sleepwalkers are less likely to pray with others on vacation. They might avoid talk about God while on vacation, since that risks causing ill feelings in an otherwise pleasurable surrounding.

They can see vacation as a time to escape from the big questions of life and slip away from the struggles born by others. Yet, summer is a perfect time for outreach since many of the seasonal barriers melt away in the warmer weather.

Spiritual adventurers use the summer months to seek out events where Christians live their faith out loud. They use vacation to go on a mission trip. They seek Christ beyond required rituals and private prayers, and use Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora for a personal retreat. They recognize Christ in the face of a stranger.They use the luxury of time to pray less for their own desires, and listen more for what God desires of them.

Inspired by such spiritual adventurers as Gary Tatu at Harvest House, I will spend a couple of weeks this summer with a group of young adventurers, in hopes that they will nudge me out of my sleepiness. I want to face the big questions this summer, which are just as rewarding as a great book and a stretch of beach.

I expect to tune into Pope Francis on Twitter, @Pontifex, and be refreshed by the thoughts of Bishop Richard J. Malone in his short weekly installments of "Consider This ..." on YouTube.

In these warmest weeks of the year, I still hope to stretch out my conscience across questions that shed light.

I want to recommit to live in a way that is immediately apparent to all. I want to venture out into the surf of life this summer, to notice and touch the rough edges of the lives that I overlook, just beneath the surf of my life, in comfort.

Perhaps Pope Francis is right. This summer may awaken me to the deeper joys of life, buried in the sands of mercy.

"Awake, O sleeper! Wake from the dead, and Christ will give you light." (Ephesians 5:14).

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