From the June issue of North Coast Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
My Dear People of God:
Summer is a time in which many seek to indulge themselves in a variety of recreational pursuits. These pursuits are not, in any way, separated from our daily living of our Catholic faith. A paragraph from The Spiritual Life is very instructive: “Pleasure in itself is not evil. God allows it when directed toward a higher end, that is, toward moral good. If He has attached pleasure to certain good acts, it is in order to facilitate their accomplishment and to draw us on to the fulfillment of duty. The moderate enjoyment of pleasure, if referred to its end – moral and supernatural good – is not an evil. In fact, it is a good act, for it tends toward a good end, which is ultimately God Himself. But to will pleasure without any reference to the end that makes it lawful, that is, to will pleasure as an end in itself and as an ultimate end, is a moral disorder, for it is going counter to the wisdom of a God-established order. Such disorder leads to further evil, because when one’s sole motive is pleasure, one is exposed to love pleasure to excess; one is no longer guided by an end that raises its barriers against that immoderate thirst for enjoyment which exists in all of us.”
This paragraph requires further reflection. Recreation is a good thing because it is directed toward the health of the body, which, hopefully, enables us to serve God more actively, consistently and effectively. There is a certain pleasure attached to recreation which helps offset at least some of the pain of physical exercise. This pleasure is attached to recreation, by God Himself, because He wants us to be healthy and so He makes recreation pleasurable. The purpose of recreation and exercise is, however, good physical and moral health. The purpose of recreation is not the pleasure it provides.
Some time ago, I talked to an X-treme kayak addict. I use the term addict decidedly. He is a thrill seeker and a risk taker and his search for yet another adrenalin rush is simply excessive. His willingness to risk his very life for the sake of a thrill is simply disordered. That may sound a little harsh, but I believe it to be true. For such a thrill seeker, the sole motive becomes a quest for an adrenaline rush, pleasure, thrill or excitement. Such a quest lacks a proper relationship to a God-established order. Without the God-established order, there is literally no barrier to that “immoderate thirst for enjoyment which exists in all of us.” This immoderate thirst is unquenchable. Hence, the risks get greater and greater, while the thrill, which was great last week, is “boring” this week. Greater risk is required to achieve a similar rush.
So it is with risks, with alcohol, with drugs, with sex, with racing, with recreation, with eating, with body piercing, with shocking dress, even with work. If it is not somehow directed toward God and the things of God, toward heaven and the things that lead to heaven, then it runs a serious risk of being disordered, that is, not ordered to God or to godliness.
The words “I’m bored” are indeed very dangerous because they are literally a declaration that I intend to be ordered to my own enjoyment, my own pleasure, and that it is my goal to seek these things as ends in themselves. They are false gods, which promise much, but have no power to fill us with what God knows we need. When young people and even us older folks seek God and the things of God and seek to order all things in our lives according to God’s plan, then all things are exciting, nothing is boring and “that immoderate thirst for enjoyment which exists in all of us” is kept properly in check.