As Catholic Christians, we are taught that we are called to serve others. Strong emphasis is put on the message that Jesus calls us to serve those in need and those around us.

But, by focusing so strongly on this message, we as a Church unintentionally send the message that serving others is everything.

This is not to say that serving others isn't important. Jesus left us with the most amazing example of servant leadership and the importance of service as part of being a Christian. However, Jesus also left us with a wonderful example of the importance of taking care of ourselves.

Scripture gives us many examples of Jesus taking time away from the crowds, time separate from His disciples and time in solitary prayer. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus gives us the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Most of us, as people of faith, focus on the first and second parts: service to God and service to others. We forget about the third part, the qualifier for the first two: service to ourselves.

Jesus tells us that we can only serve and love each other if we first love and care about ourselves. This is not permission to be selfish or not to care about the world, but it is proof that God understood the nature of human beings. He knew that we would be unable to adequately take care of others and serve the Lord if we don't take care of ourselves first.

In a world where we are constantly in motion and surrounded by the "busyness" of life, we forget that, as human beings and people of faith, we are given permission to take care of ourselves.

In order to do that, we need to be aware of our boundaries and accept the fact that we cannot be everywhere or doing everything. We need to leave time in our day (or at least our week) to refill and recharge ourselves.

For some, that might be taking a walk, hiking or doing something else that's athletic. For others, it may be playing music, writing or painting. It might be sitting in silence on a mountain, on the beach or at a lake, or just taking time for prayer.

Whatever it may be for each of us individually, we need to take the time to actually do it. This can be difficult in the midst of family, work and other obligations, but it is important -- so important that God made it part of His commandment to us.

Take a moment and think about what brings you joy, recharges your batteries and refills your soul so you can take on the things that God brings you. How can you make some of those things part of your week, if not part of your daily life?

Remember, God wants you to take care of yourself, just as much as He wants you to serve others.

(Ms. Fay is pastoral associate for youth ministry for Our Lady of Grace parish in Ballston Lake and St. Joseph's in Scotia.)