There's probably as many answers to that question as their are priests, but I like to think that the vacay I just took would be a model for vacations for the rest of my priesthood.
I've really only got four qualities, or marks if you will, that "a little time away" must meet: Holy, Fraternal, Awesome, and Cheap.
No matter what, the Lord must be at the center of the vacation. As the old axiom goes, there's no vacation from your vocation. Daily Mass is a must. Making time for daily prayer is a sine qua non. On the other side of the coin, there can be no room for shenanigans. If I wouldn't do it in my priestly clerical clothing, it probably shouldn't be done at all.
Friendships are so crucially important. How hard it is to stay in contact with the friends you make in college or in, a priest's case, in seminary. A priest-in-process can make so many great friends, guys with whom he can share anything from a beer and a belch to a hear-wrenching spiritual struggle. A priest's vacation ought to be shared with priest-buddies.
Location and stuff to do. What good is a vacation if there's no change of scenery, no recreational (read 're-creational') activity? If it's the same ol', same ol', the vacation probably wont serve its purpose.
All the above must be accomplished while keeping the price within a reasonable range. And a priest's reasonable range is and ought to be a little lower than the average person's. We make a promise of simplicity in accordance with our state in life. There's no vow of poverty for diocesan priests (as there is for religious priests), but the Lord's call to be detached from the things of the world still applies--as it does to ALL CHRISTIANS. Priests should witness to it all the more, showing how such a detachment is actually quite freeing and joyful.
So here's a picture of the vacation I just took. It should speak for itself on each of the qualities of an epic priestly vacation.
|Mass on a rock on the island of Culebra|
Holy -- It's the Mass. There's nothing more holy than the Mass. There was Mass every day. This Mass was offered on the island of Culebra, on an empty beach. The candles wouldn't stay lit, but besides that, it was practically perfect in every way. We had a holy hour each day, prayed our Liturgy of the Hours, and offered a rosary each day as we drove to the different spots around the east coast of Puerto Rico. I even got to go to confession!
|Fr. Keith owning a waterfall in El Yunque national rain forest.|
|Zoni Beach, Culebra|
Awesome -- I think the top picture speaks for itself on this mark. Puerto Rico is simply stunning. So much natural beauty. We snorkeled every day, each day better than the last. We chilled on the beach, we harvested coconuts, we had great food, we hiked in rain forest, we toured Old San Juan. So relaxing, so fulfilling. Just in case the top pic doesn't capture the high awesomeness factor, feast your eyes on this one.
Finally, Cheap -- You might be thinking, Ok, you went to Puerto Rico. How is that inexpensive? Well, it just was. Being a priest has a few perks. In this case, one of those perks is that ordination hooks a man up in the largest fraternity in the world. No matter where a priest is on God's green earth, there's going to be a Catholic Church there, and a pastor who will take you in for free (especially if you offer to take one his Masses or confession times). Fr. Keith and I stayed at San Juan's San Agustin parish. It's certainly no Ritz, or even a Holiday Inn for that matter. But it is a private and safe room with a bed and air conditioning. Free lodging REALLY helps, and I'm most grateful to Fr. Felix and his Redemptorist brothers who hosted us. The only expenses we had were the flight, the rental car, and food. The flight was astonishingly affordable, mostly I think because we're smack in the middle of hurricane season. But, praise God, weather was not an issue.
So that's a priestly vacation. Can't wait for the next one!