Turning Work Into Rest
As St. Teresa of Avila Week continues, we have a Día de los amigos Miercoles straight from España! A recent graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Camille Carloss shares with us a little bit about life in St. Teresa of Avila’s homeland and the never-ending battle for a work/life balance!
Espero que lo disfruten,
Girl on a Swing by Raimundo Madrazo y Garreta (Image: Pinterest)
I have lived in Barcelona, Spain for about a month. When I came to Spain, I felt very similar to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Instead of reforming a religious order, I had the goal of converting all of the Spaniards… and then all of Europe (humble, I know). Upon arriving, the Lord laughed at me, as He does so often, and all my assumptions were stripped away. It should be noted that every time I venture off into the world outside my small bubble of Lafayette, Louisiana, I assume that the Church will be in ruin. Usually, the Lord puts me in my place. And when I arrived here, how surprised I was at the amount of people at daily mass! And there were even some young people!
When Katie asked if I would be interested in writing about Spanish life, I asked the Holy Spirit for direction. I pondered how to weave my view of Spanish life with the Spain St. Teresa of Avila knew, in a different region and centuries later. The juxtaposition of work and rest, continually came to mind. I was bombarded with quotes from completely different works (even many of the daily Mass readings have discussed laborers!) And, to seal the deal, I found this quote by Saint Teresa of Avila:
Love turns work into rest.
I’m sure I have not quite mastered this maxim, but this does introduce the topic of both work and rest. A perilous dichotomy to some, or to others the paths which, in moderation, lead to virtue. Coming from the United States, a country driven by capitalism and consumerism, work is highly demanded and a lucrative job is sometimes seen as the highest goal one can attain in earthly life. To some, any rest is regarded as laziness, while others extol rest to the extreme, create an idol, and descend into the vice of sloth. Living in Spain, the land of famed “siestas,” has allowed me to grow in virtue and understanding of the moderation of work and rest. [Unfortunately, siestas are not a common practice where I am in Spain, only on the weekends (though I think this further emphasizes the importance of days of rest, not an excess.)]
One day in Spanish class, we were discussing why stores are closed on Sundays, siestas, etc, when my teacher said this: “The Spanish are hard workers, but they do not live at work.” This was a lightbulb moment for me. Until this point I noticed something tangibly different about Spanish life, but I never quite put my finger on it, until that moment. That was it. What many may regard as laziness, I see as opportunity for a balanced and virtuous life. This is a life where work is moderate, rest is encouraged, and both are put in their proper place. And I do think that their regard to work (potentially not the best for a good economy, but the best for a good life) is rooted in the Catholic faith and its importance in their festivities and families. I’m a big philosophy fan and I always remember Aristotle’s maxim of the “Golden Mean”: virtue is the median found between excess (workaholism) and deficiency (laziness). So, I’ve comprised a list of three suggestions I have for achieving both good work and good rest, and a healthy balance between them.
(1) Discern the place work should take in your life--how much is prudent, too much, or not enough. This is especially important if you have a family.
“...your relationship to each other . . . should be the human core of your hearts. Using this standard, you’ll be able to gauge whether your working is doing more harm than good” (von Hildebrand 133-34). In Alice von Hildebrand’s By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride (HIGHLY recommended) she discusses the tension of work and family life and warns: “your job can become the central theme of your life.” Many times work can take precedence over what should be important in life. Work is good and virtuous, but be careful to keep priorities straight. God and family should be at the center and if work starts to encroach, best to take a step back and reevaluate.
(2) Use the liturgical calendar to schedule your work, and rest.
This is something I truly appreciate about Spain and something I definitely want to emphasize and implement when I have my own family. Here, they like to feast and, in my experience, all festivities are connected to an important Catholic feast. Schools and most work places are closed during festivities. (Obviously we have to work on some days that are festivities, but treat those days special from others.)
That being said, fasting is also very important to our Catholic faith. Feast when it is time to feast, fast when it is time to fast. I would recommend reclaiming Friday as a day to fast. In the past, meat used to be abstained from every Friday. Meat is not necessary, but some fasting or abstaining on Fridays really helps set the rhythm for a liturgical-calendar-life. (Regarding food, meals in general are very important and family meals are encouraged). The Church gives us a beautiful calendar that we can use to determine our schedules. Fasting and abstinence on Fridays and during penitential seasons, work on regular days, and feasting on festivities and Sundays paves the way for a holy, balanced, and ordered life.
(3) Truly bring back the practice of keeping Holy the Sabbath.
A few days ago I saw this quote from Pope Francis, posted by the Ann Arbor Dominicans from 2015: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. . . But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” In such cases, he concludes, “work ends up dehumanizing people.”
I have heard this spoken about a lot recently, but I never truly grasped the idea of the Sabbath until I lived in Spain. Ideally, one would rest for the entire day on Sunday. I try to avoid technology--no computer, no email, no facebook [Editor’s Note: except AskAuntKatie.com]. I also try to do some leisure activities (paint, read a book, take a siesta, go on an excursion). Celebrate! Treat yo’ self.
This is the day the Lord has Risen! Take time drinking your coffee, eat your favorite food, have some dessert. You may feel stressed instead of rested at the thought of abandoning work for a whole day (which does take practice, discipline, and sometimes a big reordering of your schedule). If there is work you normally do on Sunday try and do this work on Friday or Saturday (household chores, homework--a big one). If this is a totally new concept to you, maybe start small (poco a poco, as my Spanish teacher would say), maybe separate aside a few hours on Sunday (besides Mass)--or another day if work is necessary on Sunday. (By “work” I mean that which is unnecessary--for instance, don’t let your kids starve or your house become a pigsty in the name of rest on Sundays). For those few hours go on a mini retreat. If God found time for the Sabbath, I think we miniscule humans can too!
Balance is always difficult, but I’ve been able to find a little more while living here. I spend these days trying to appreciate this new life--little glimpse of a life outside and very far from the life I was accustomed to. This being said, Spain is not perfect and everyone always needs conversion--therefore, my task still lives! Working with children every day is definitely a cause for conversion and I try to continually choose charity--sometimes very difficult and such an act of the will. I hope to love more each day and continue to grow in holiness, hoping one day to have enough virtue that love will “turn work into rest.” St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!
Niece Recommendation! If you’re interested in learning more about leisure from a religious and more philosophical perspective, I recommend Josef Pieper’s Leisure and the Basis of Culture.
Camille Carloss (soon-to-be Simon) is an Au Pair in a small town near Barcelona, Spain. She spends her time reading, painting, praying, and being taught patience by two small Spanish children. She loves nature, stalking monks, TOB, wine, tea with a good book, and her dear fiancé. Camille can be reached for comment, compliment, or Spanish lessons at firstname.lastname@example.org.