If you took one look at the small extra bag I'm bringing with me on vacation, you would swear I was going on retreat and not to the New Jersey Shore with its miles of sandy beaches, boardwalk rides and fried Oreos. I don't know what comes over me every time I venture away from home, but I always pack as if I'm going to be able to cram a year's worth of prayer and reflection into the few quiet hours I have between swimming and tide-pooling and walking and eating.
Here's what I've got in my bag -- so far:
July issue of Magnificat
Praying the Psalms by Thomas Merton
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (for spiritual and work-related purposes)
A blank journal
Come to the Quiet: The Principles of Christian Meditation by John Michael Talbot
A Retreat with Brother Lawrence and the Russian Pilgrim by Kerry Walters
No Moment too Small: Rhythms of Silence, Prayer & Holy Reading by Norvene Vest
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman (lest you think I'm taking only spiritual reading)
And finally, my own book manuscript (spiritual, of course), which I am hoping to edit during "down" time
In addition, I'm packing my trusty battery-powered candle, a triptych (that's it in the photo above) and a small cross. I had to skip the incense, unless I want to get myself voted off the island.
I am fully aware of the fact that I will most likely never get to most of this, or any of it. Some of it won't even make it out of my bag. Other things will get a cursory glance. But there is a chance -- and a good chance -- that at least one thing will strike a chord and give me some much needed spiritual food for thought. And, as far as I'm concerned, spiritual time while sitting on the beach or near the beach has ten times the power of the spiritual time I spend sitting in my basement (where I have my little sacred space) or bedroom. The vastness of the ocean and the magnificence of the natural world around me -- and yes, I'm still talking about New Jersey -- just makes vacation prayer time a little bit sweeter than regular prayer time.
I'll tell you how it goes. Or doesn't.