The recreations of the Christian are meritorious before God, if they are engaged in with an eye to His glory. The following anecdote is related of St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. On one occasion the saint, at the request of several priests, took part in a game of billiards. While the game was going on, one of the priests said: “What should we do if we knew that the last judgment would take place in an hour?” One said: “I should immediately betake myself to prayer.” Another declared: “I should at once make a general confession of my whole life.” Various replies were made by others who were present. St. Charles kept silence; he knew that the question was proposed to see what he would say. When at length the inquiry was addressed to him, he answered: “I should quietly continue the game, because I began it with the intention of honoring God.” This reply was totally unexpected, and made a great impression on all who heard it. Thus we see that even in our recreations we may give glory to God.
St. John, who was Bishop of Ephesus, had a tame partridge with which he often amused himself in his hours of recreation. One day a stranger came who was armed with a bow and arrows. He had journeyed a long distance to see the bishop. At the moment he arrived St. John was playing with his pet, allowing it to perch on his hand, his shoulder, or his head. The stranger seemed very much surprised that a man who, as he thought, ought to be occupied exclusively with spiritual matters, should spend his time playing with a bird. He ventured to express his astonishment to the bishop. In answer St. John put a question to him, asking why he had unbent his bow? The man replied: “Because if it was kept strung, it would lose its force.” “The same principle,” St. John said, “holds good in regard to us mortal men, when we have much work and many cares. In order not to sink under their weight a man must relax his mind with some innocent amusement.” Thus it will be seen that recreation is not merely allowable, but necessary, and be the day ever so holy, innocent recreation is not inconsistent with one’s duty to God.
Text from Francis Spirago, Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism (New York: Benziger, 1904).