Lawful and Commendable Pastimes and Recreations

June 30, 2021 • 3 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 190
By St. Francis de Sales

Chapter XXXI.

Pastimes and Recreations: and first, of such as are lawful and commendable.

It is necessary sometimes to relax our minds as well as our bodies by some kind of recreation. St. John the Evangelist, as Cassian relates, amusing himself one day with a partridge on his hand, was asked by a huntsman: How such a man as he could spend his time in so unprofitable a manner? St. John said to him: Why do you not carry your bow always bent? Because, answered the huntsman, if it were always bent I fear it would lose its spring and become useless. Be not surprised, then, replied the apostle, that I should sometimes remit somewhat of my close application and attention of spirit in order to enjoy a little recreation, that I may afterwards employ myself more fervently in divine contemplation. It is doubtless a vice to be so rigorous and austere, as neither to be willing to take any recreation ourselves, nor allow it to others.

To take the air, to walk, to entertain ourselves with cheerful and friendly conversations, to play on musical instruments, to sing, or to hunt, are recreations so innocent, that in a proper use of them there needs but that common prudence, which gives to everything its due order, time, place, and measures.

Those games in which the gain serves as a recompense for the dexterity and industry of the body or of the mind, such as tennis, ball-playing, chess, backgammon, &c., are recreations in themselves good and lawful: provided that excess, either in the time employed in them, or in stakes played for, is avoided, because if too much time is spent in them, they are no longer an amusement, but an occupation, in which neither the mind nor the body is refreshed, but, on the contrary, stupefied and oppressed. After playing five or six hours at chess the mind is quite fatigued and exhausted. To play long at tennis is not to recreate but to fatigue the body; and if the sum played for is too great the passion for gambling is excited; besides, it is unjust to hazard so much upon abilities of so little importance as those which are exercised at play.

But above all, Philothea, take especial care not to set your affections upon these amusements; for how innocent soever any amusements may be, when we set our hearts upon them they become vicious. I do not say that you must take no pleasure whilst at play, for then it would not be recreation; but I say, you must not fix your affection on it, nor amuse yourself too long with it, nor be too eager after it.

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