Editor’s note: This post is one in a series inspired by Joe Paprocki’s book 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness. In the book, Joe introduces each key with a fun or thought-provoking question. Each Friday we’ll share an excerpt from 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness that poses a question, followed by a response by a catechist or catechetical leader.
Where is your dream vacation spot?
Is it the stunning alpine valleys of New Zealand? The natural beauty and ancient history of Greece? The magical Inca temples of Peru? The stunning beauty and Polynesian flavor of the Hawaiian Islands? The sparkling white sandy beaches of the Caribbean? The architectural majesty and romance of Paris?
Whatever your choice, chances are it has something to do with beauty. We are drawn to beauty. When vacation time rolls around, we seek to refresh our bodies, minds, and souls by encountering beauty. We do this because we need beauty. We need beauty just as much as we need proper nutrition in our diet. Think about the times that you “have a taste” for some food—for steak, a fresh tomato, an orange. This is the body’s way of calling out for required nutrients. In the same way, the human soul craves beauty. Spiritual wellness requires a steady diet of beauty. We are drawn to beauty, attracted by its splendor, and enticed by its appeal.
Human beings believe that beauty can transport us somewhere. I’m not talking about “Beam me up, Scotty” transportation from one planet to another as depicted in Star Trek. The kind of transporting that I’m talking about is synonymous with transcendence. We desire to transcend ourselves—to be transported beyond the merely physical and material to an experience of the spiritual. We seek to touch mystery and to be touched by it. That which is beautiful possesses mystery. So we are attracted to beauty in hopes that we will be able to touch mystery and, in doing so, be loved and embraced by it.
—7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness by Joe Paprocki
The Sandy Beach
A couple of months ago, I suffered a heart attack that has brought new perspectives about a myriad of things in my life. I have had so many irons in the fire over the years; I am now learning how to focus on more important things, discerning what is best for me in this life, and preparing to meet our Lord in the next. When I consider my dream vacation spot in this context, I cannot help but to consider the beauty of a white sandy beach on shores where joys will never end.
Having grown up along the Gulf of Mexico, I really miss the opportunities to visit Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach in Alabama. As I have grown spiritually, I have come to picture those sandy beaches as a place where all God’s people can come up from the waters and into a new life in Christ, a life where people from different cultures can share in a community that embraces their diversity, a life where none of us are perceived as strangers. I’d like to think that as my soul craves the beauty of those sandy beaches, it also relishes the opportunities to encounter others and share our rich cultural gifts in communion.
Sacred Scripture reminds us, “If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12) Through the virtue of chastity, we are able to love one another more perfectly as God loves us. After all, God instills in us the means to love others, meeting them where they are without distinction and seeing their inherent beauty. Through this authentically chaste love we fulfill our destiny as the children of God.
My dream vacation spot exists on that sandy beach where, as I soak up the sun and watch the waves, I am able to experience the wonder and awe of a loving God who made me in his image. The experience lifts me up toward the transcendent, fostering a compelling intimacy with the Lord. Those sandy beaches help me more closely identify with the words, the deeds, and the life of Christ. They help me have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. (See Philippians 2:5.) This impels me to embrace others and recognize their inherent dignity.
Yes, my dream vacation spot is a place where the beauty of the earth is perfectly illustrated in God’s creation—his earth, his landscape, and his people. My true vacation spot is anywhere the people of God are treated with dignity and respect, where we all share the concept of what it means “to do justice and to love kindness, / and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) This is life-giving and rejuvenating to my soul.
Get the book that inspired this series! Purchase 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness by Joe Paprocki at LoyolaPress.com.