Time off and time away to relax is the tone of these summer months. We may have time with friends and family to catch up and be together whether at home or away. Favourite authors are turned to with delight, new ones explored with anticipation of a good read. Some holidays are taken in well-known surroundings and the familiarity helps us to unwind. Others are taken with a particular interest that we want to develop or place we want to explore. The possibilities are endless if you have the money and the health.
We know that many struggle to afford a holiday particularly as prices go up with demand. I’ve always thought how unfair that is for those with school age children who cannot go away at any other time and on whom falls so much other expenditure; mortgages and rents are high, fuel and food is pricey and childcare costs are crippling; and on top of that, if you want to go away in July and August, you have to pay more than at other times of year! Our current austerity is falling on this group in particular very hard indeed.
Others of course are not able to go away. Poverty, caring for someone, illness or frailty may mean that we have no option but to stay put which can be difficult when so many others are away. Loneliness can increase as support networks often pack up for the summer. It’s not the best time to go into hospital (or at least that used to be the case – it may not be now) because many hospital doctors begin their new jobs in August; but we can’t always choose when to be in hospital! And the heat can be just as difficult to cope with as the cold!
In the autumn I am fortunate to be having a sabbatical and many of the ingredients of a holiday are present in a sabbatical too. Christmas off will be the first for about 35 years!
However in addition to some holiday there are three things I shall be doing. The PCC are generously (that’s not tongue in cheek!) sending Sarah and I to pick olives in Palestine alongside Palestinian olive farmers as part of the Olive Tree Campaign that the parish has been supporting – it is our Harvest Appeal this year for the third year. We are very grateful for this opportunity and it will be so interesting not least to see the Holy Land with its sacred sites from a politically aware and active perspective. The second trip, which I will be taking alone, will be an Ignatian pilgrimage to northern Spain and Rome to see the places that were important in the life of Ignatius of Loyola and deepen my appreciation of him. Finally I shall be going to North Wales to the Ignatian Spirituality Centre at St Beuno’s to do a five-week Ignatian spirituality programme. This will involve studying the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius and learning how to take another person through them as they live their normal lives – this is so much more possible for people to manage rather than going to a secluded, residential retreat setting to undertake the Exercises. This is the one bit of further training that is shall be doing. As you can imagine I am very excited!
However I do hope that the summer is treating you kindly, whatever your circumstances!