Summer time can be noisy and hectic, sometimes so noisy and hectic that we don’t take time to reflect on all that God has done and is doing in the lives or our teens, Core, family, friends or self. We go from one event to another, often forgetting what we did the weekend before we get to the next one. Steubenville conferences, mission trips, sports nights, leadership conferences, Diocesan youth conferences, Life Teen and Edge Summer Camps, Life Nights, retreats, Core and catechist recruitment and training . . . the list is endless. If even half of this list sounds like your summer, you might be susceptible to what I like to call Sabbath Syndrome.
Sabbath Syndrome is a serious spiritual health problem that should not be taken lightly. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that collectively indicate a disease, psychological disorder or other abnormal condition. Sabbath Syndrome typically takes on the following symptoms: no day off for weeks on end, constant phone calls from teens and Core, lack of committed prayer time, no spiritual accountability (either from friends, family or spiritual director), ministry feeling like a burden instead of a blessing, and not frequenting the Sacraments unless it is part of your “job.”
Sound vaguely familiar?
I think we can all agree that these symptoms should not be overlooked and should never be considered normal behavior especially if we are leading teens closer to Christ through our witness and example.
The symptoms will not just appear out of nowhere; they will creep up on you like the flu. Suddenly you are falling asleep in the middle of the Joyful Mysteries or you find you are working 2-3 weeks in a row without a day off just because it is a busy “season.” Eventually this becomes routine and you are unable to sleep through the night because your mind won’t shut off or you are eating poorly because you don’t have time to cook a balanced meal.
Finally, you start to give in to the subtle whispers in your mind that no one cares about what you do; not the teens, staff, or your family, and suddenly the ministry you once felt called to and loved is a ministry you want to quit. And how did all this happen? You didn’t take your Sabbath day and now you have Sabbath Syndrome!
I know it might seem simple, but there is a reason it is the third Commandment (remember to keep holy the Lord’s day). Not keeping Sabbath really shows our lack of trust in God that He will provide. We feel our ministry is completely dependent on us, not God working through us. Most of the time we are doing more than God is calling us to do in our ministry and not taking time to listen to what He is actually asking us to do and who He is calling to serve alongside us. Combined with the spiritual attack many of us face when we are a vessel of God, this syndrome is very serious.
When we start putting our ministry or the “important” grocery trip above a day of rest, we loose focus of God. We don’t “work” for God (He already did all the work on the cross) we are called to love Him and not place anything above Him. When we start to put in more hours in front of the computer instead of in front of the Blessed Sacrament our vision weakens and we start to see God through the world’s eyes instead of the world through God’s eyes. He doesn’t want our hours; He wants us.
Ministry will pull you in multiple directions, but if it pulls you from the love of God because you are not spending any time with Christ you will feel abandoned.
As you start to plan your calendar for the year, cross out two days weekly where you will not “be in the office” and dedicate one day as your Sabbath day. This doesn’t mean you are all alone; Sabbath should be spent with those you love most – including God. Just be sure it is not so full that you are not open to hearing the voice of God.
A Sabbath day every week will allow your vocation and ministry to be centered on the Christ. It will strengthen your prayer life as well as your spiritual and physical health. It will make you more present to the voice of God and the voices of all who surround you, both the teens and parents who cheer and sneer you on. Sabbath will allow you to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:11).