With Mother’s Day approaching, there are a lot of self-care suggestions popping up in news feeds and mailboxes. There is no shortage of coupons and advertisements for self care opportunities for mom.
But judging by the content of the ads, it would seem that self-care is synonymous with pedicures, manicures, gym memberships and girls-only wine drinking binge nights.
Moms absolutely deserve a break every so often. But is self-care that helps us escape reality really good for us? To answer this question we turn to the saints. Their example of holiness and balance surely can guide us here. After all, Jesus Himself said “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
1. Let go of your plans
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God,” Saint Edith Stein wrote. “Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it.”
Edith Stein didn’t have an easy life. She suffered greatly and was eventually killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. A convert to Catholicism from Judaism, Edith entered the Carmelite Monastery in Cologne, Germany in 1933. She maintained her faith and her surrender to God throughout the Nazi occupation and her imprisonment in Auschwitz.
She offers her perspective on how to live one’s life by giving the first moments of the day to God. Then, she encourages us to follow our day in the way that Christ orders it. This practice can surely ease the burdens we so often put on ourselves. How often do we cause ourselves stress by tackling what we want instead of setting about doing what God “charges us with?”
2. Take time for prayer
“The stillness of prayer is the most essential condition for fruitful action. Before all else, the disciple kneels down,” wrote Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.
Gianna was a successful career woman. A pediatrician and mother, she lived a demanding life. Yet, even in the midst of juggling the demands of both family and work, Gianna kept her life ordered. She recognized that prayer is the ultimate self care that one can exercise.
When she was pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a fibroma in her uterus, which meant she carried both a child and a tumor. She is known for insisting that above all else, her baby’s life must be saved, even at the expense of her own. On April 28, 1962, Gianna practiced for the last time her version of self-care: the stillness of prayer. She passed away and entered Heaven where she is now the patroness of mothers and physicians.
3. Sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine
“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine,” Saint Thomas Aquinas said so wisely.
Saints are practical even as they are holy. They recognized that if life is rightly ordered, if God is placed first, then practical steps to care for very human feelings are necessary. This quote from Saint Thomas is proof that small pleasures can in fact be good and even, “alleviate sorrow.” Perhaps this is a good way for mom to end Mother’s Day!
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Thomas studied long and hard. He was known as the “dumb ox” by his early classmates. The saint later proved how wrong that nickname was when he continued his education, established universities and became a Papal Theologian. He spent many years writing prolifically and teaching others about God, the Catholic Faith, and Christian philosophy.
4. Practice daily devotion
“Through devotion, your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable,” wrote Saint Francis de Sales
Saint Francis is widely known for his holy, simple, and practical advice. It is no surprise that he had something to say about how work, family life, and service can be “pleasant and agreeable.” Francis stressed the key to making a busy, complicated, modern life livable.” Practicing a life of devotion is pursuing holiness. Francis believed that each and every person, regardless of their circumstances was capable of becoming holy.
To Francis, it is this devotion that makes life worth living. This devotion makes even the hum-drum of everyday life pleasant and peaceful – not something to escape.
5. Take time for some holy leisure
“Through the recreation and leisure made possible by travel, people are restored and renewed, body and spirit,” Saint Pope John Paul II wrote. “They return home to family and work with a new perspective and enthusiasm for life.”
John Paul II was certainly no stranger to travel, having traveled the equivalent of going to the moon and back again three times during his Papacy! Ironically, he never traveled outside of Poland until he was an adult because of the Nazi and Communist occupations of Poland. Yet, this did not stop him from coming to a deep understanding of the human need for recreation and leisure.
The saint practiced holy leisure, sneaking off to visit the mountains or to go skiing or hiking as Pope. He never omitted his times of prayer, and was often seen pausing on the slopes or the hiking trails to enter into deep, contemplative communion with God. His example of how to mix leisure and recreation while maintaining a deep prayer life amidst intense and never-ending responsibilities is one we can all learn from!
6. Let creation draw you to God
“Let everything in creation draw you to God. Refresh your mind with some innocent recreation and needful rest, if it were only to saunter through the garden or the fields, listening to the sermon preached by the flowers, the trees, the meadows, the sun, the sky, and the whole universe.”
Saint Paul sums up so beautifully what the purpose of self care should be. It isn’t a time of escape, but rather, time to allow oneself time to drawn back to God. How can we hope to care for ourselves if we neglect the One who created us?
What makes this advice especially remarkable is that Paul was known for how harsh he was to himself. He practiced mortification, and considered himself to be the most unworthy of sinners – even though God gifted him with many supernatural abilities!
The saints certainly have much to teach us, and their holy and even practical advice on self care doesn’t disappoint. This Mother’s Day, let Mom choose a type of recreation that lifts one’s mind to God and His goodness. Then follow a time of leisure up with a “good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine”.
It’s just what the Saintly Doctors ordered!