District Superior's Letter: Nov-Dec 2014
Fr. Wegner explains the importance of the children's camps that the SSPX annually sponsors during the summer months.
How encouraging are these camps that took place during the summer with more than 700 participants! In the task of educating children, vacation time and entertainment present challenges.
St. Thomas Aquinas studied the virtue which regulates entertainment and play called eutrapelia. It comes under the heading of modesty in the Summa Theologica II-II; 168.
He reports that one day a serious-minded person caught St. John the Evangelist playing a game with his disciples. Rebuked for daring to give in to some amusement, unworthy of an apostle, St. John did not argue the point. He simply picked up a bow, handed it to his reformer, and asked him to shoot an arrow at a target. The man did. St. John asked him to shoot again and again. Finally he asked, “What would happen if arrows were shot indefinitely from that bow?” “It would break!” answered the opponent. “The same thing would happen to a man,” the saint concluded. “He would break unless he gives his soul a rest!”
Amusement is necessary to give rest to the soul, but its exercise must be regulated.
- It should never be indecent or injurious: its goal is to rest the soul.
- It should interrupt the labors of the soul without upsetting its harmony: enough, but not too much. Quoting Cicero, St. Thomas said, "Just as we do not allow children to enjoy absolute freedom in their games, but only that which is consistent with good behavior, so our very fun should reflect something of an upright mind.”
- It has to be fitting for the persons, places and time. A student shouting operatic scales in the corridor at 1 o’clock in the morning would rightly be considered just as vicious as a wet blanket who destroys the pleasure of others at a party.
Our camps are a great opportunity for our children to learn how to practice eutrapelia. It might be interesting to review entertainment at home in regard to the teaching of St. Thomas. What about the time and the means we use, the lack of supervision, the unlimited access to video games or internet, movies? What about the company, the place? How do we organize and participate in traditional and healthy recreational activities like singing, acting and playing games as a family?
Finally, the purpose of play is to rest the soul. It presupposes work and looks forward to more work. It cannot become a goal in itself. It cannot become such a goal that everything in one’s life focuses solely on it. Without getting to the extreme of addiction where one sacrifices family, work and even God for gambling, horses or golf, should we not also be careful about the tendency to work for vacations? Let us not live as if our life had one goal: recreation!
In fact, eternal rest will be an on-going activity, not a labor, but the supreme human activity: contemplation. That is our goal: to be possessed and captivated by God, the object of our everlasting admiration and praise.
With my blessing,
Yours in the Immaculate,
Fr. Jurgen Wegner