Vacations as a time of connection with God, your spouse and nature: Insights from St. John Paul II

02 July 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

With summer upon us, many people take some time to go on vacation. Sometimes the idea of taking a vacation can feel like an added burden, especially when there are financial struggles or a lot of energy to expend to make it logistically happen. However, St. John Paul II reminded us that “we all in fact need an occasional period of extended physical, psychological and spiritual rest. Especially for those who live in large cities, it is important that they immerse themselves in nature for a while.”[2]

As St. John Paul II gave this Angelus Address in 1997, he shared that “Next Wednesday I too will go to the mountains of Val d’Aosta to spend a few days resting and relaxing.”[3] St. John Paul II was definitely not a stranger to living out the importance of vacationing given that throughout his life, he enjoyed taking time to go on hiking, kayaking and skiing trips, to name a few. Given the example of St. John Paul II, how can you, your spouse and possibly your children, go on a vacation that can be rejuvenating?

Melissa Guzik

Some advice that St. John Paul II gave us was that “[f]or a vacation to be truly such and bring genuine well-being, in it a person must recover a good balance with himself, with others and with the environment. It is this interior and exterior harmony which revitalizes the mind and reinvigorates body and spirit.”[4] This reinvigoration of body and spirit can be done in many ways including taking time to strengthen your relationship with God, your spouse and other people in your life who will be on vacation with you, and spending time in nature.

As you take time to focus on God, your time away may provide the opportunities for “new places, new people, new experiences [to] bring renewal, recreation, and restoration of a proper perspective. A vacation can generate new insights, new ideas, or even new solutions for problems… Vacation has the potential to reignite both creativity and productivity, and getting away from it all can often lead to renewed appreciate of ‘it all’ —family, hometown and work.”[5]

You can spend some time with God, yourself and your spouse by taking time to pray, to go on a pilgrimage, visit a shrine, or going to Mass while you are away. As you go to Mass as you travel, it can also be a reminder of the universality of the Church given that almost anywhere you go, you will likely be able to go to Mass.

During a vacation, it can also be fun to discover new churches or shrines as you visit new or even familiar places. Within Alberta, there are many shrines to go to or pilgrimages to attend: Lac St. Anne pilgrimage, Skaro pilgrimage for the vigil and feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourds at St. Albert Parish, or the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore are a few examples. If you have to stay at home to take a staycation, it may be an opportunity to visit and pray at some of the beautiful churches in Edmonton itself, such as St. Joseph’s Basilica, St. Joachim Parish, or Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples to only name a few.

As you go on vacation, are there opportunities that you and your spouse can set aside to connect spiritually? If so, what would you like to do? Could this time include opportunities to pray together, go to Mass together, pray a rosary, pray a novena such as to Our Lady Undoer of Knots for guidance on some of the “knots” in your marriage or family life, pray a novena for a saint’s feast day in July or August, or read and discuss a book that could nourish your faith like one of the stories of the saints?

St. John Paul II shared with us that a vacation can be a time to connect with others and to “recover a good balance with himself, with others,”[6] which can include your spouse, your children, other family, or friends. From the busyness of life, spending quality time with your spouse and the people close to you may have become less of a priority. While on vacation, St. John Paul II emphasized that this is an opportunity to bring about “good balance” to the time we spend with the people close to us in that “[o]ne of the values of a holiday is that of meeting and spending time with others in an unselfish way, for the pleasure of friendship and for sharing quiet moments together.”[7]

That pleasure of friendship can including having fun, which is important as it can help unite you and your spouse and may assist in lessen stress in your lives (See the article Infusing Fun into Your Marriage this Summer for ideas of how to have fun with your spouse and the importance of doing so).

As you plan your vacation, are there any activities you can plan for the purpose of having fun and connecting with the people you will be spending it with? More specifically, is there a time that you and your spouse can set aside for the two of you to connect while having quiet moments or having fun together? If so, what would you like to do as a couple? This could be an opportunity to discover or participate in a new activity together or to repeat a previous date that you both enjoyed.

“It is important that they immerse themselves in nature for a while,” St. John Paul II reminded us. This opportunity to “immerse [yourself] in nature” can be very rejuvenating as you spend time appreciating the beauty of God’s creation. It provides you with time to admire a magnificent sunrise or sunset, see and possibly swim in the beauty of a lake, river, or waterfall, notice and smell the forest around you with the trees, flowers, birds, and animals. Even feeling the warmth of the sun and the presence of the wind on your body as you are outside can be refreshing. These moments may be ones where you can experience the grandeur of God as well as the care and love He took as He created the world. On your vacation, are there times that you and your spouse can spend in nature? If so, what activities could you plan? Some ideas include going for a hike, swimming, boating, or biking while deliberately taking the opportunity to notice and be thankful for the nature around you. If you or your spouse can’t participate in these activities due to struggles with physical mobility or your state in life, can you plan to take time to be in a garden, sit on the edge of a lake or pool, or sit or lay outside and experience the beauty of the creation around you?

This summer as you and your spouse go on vacation or have a staycation, may the words and example of St. John Paul II assist you to intentionally plan moments of rejuvenation to grow closer to God, your spouse, and nature. St. John Paul II pray for us!

Melissa Guzik is a registered psychologist who works in private practice in Edmonton. Melissa works with Catholic couples to help them have marriages that are both fulfilling and pleasing to God. Melissa has been married since 2002 and has four children. She is the co-author of the Catholic marriage enrichment book and workbook To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment. For more information see Information about Melissa’s private practice can be found at

[1] John Paul II (1997, July 6). Angelus. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] D’Ambrosio M. (2016). June 21: Vacation. In L. M. Hendey, & S. A. Reinhard (Eds.), The Catholic mom’s prayer companion: A book of daily reflections. Ave Maria Press.
[6] John Paul II (1997, July 6). Angelus. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
[7] Ibid.