FROM THE PASTOR
September 25, 2011
by Fr. George W. Rutler
There is a seemingly endless list of “How to Be Happy” books, and most of them are depressing. That is because they miss the point. Happiness, for which we are “hardwired” by God, cannot last unless it comes from God, who is everlasting. In the venerable cadence of the Baltimore Catechism: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” There are almost countless establishments in our busy neighborhood that advertise “Happy Hours” but none that offer “Happy Lives.”
The happiest moments in earthly life are mixed with some sort of sorrow, knowing that we cannot enjoy them eternally while still in time and that our mortal bodies cannot contain immortal joy. So sometimes, sublime music or images move us to tears rather than laughter, and we seem ready to “burst with joy.”
Christ wept the most raucous tears when moved by the sight of sad people, because it contradicted the joys of heaven, and He wept for the earthly Jerusalem because it had become so shabby compared to the heavenly Jerusalem. Only the eternal Lord could say with a human voice: “So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you” (John 16:22).
A recent survey by the University of Chicago listed the ten “happiest jobs.” The clergy are number one, and I would agree with that. Some of the others are teachers, artists, authors, counselors, and firefighters. Since I teach, paint as a hobby, write, counsel, and am an honorary firefighter, I have every claim to unconfined bliss. But the point that so many “How to Be Happy” books miss, is that true satisfaction has little to do with money or that sort of thing. Einstein found his greatest happiness with just “a table and a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin.”
The saints are joy made visible. Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, had the consolations of a splendid intellect and the prominence of a cardinal, yet he was especially happy scrubbing the pots and pans in his seminary. He writes in The Ascent of the Soul to God: “Therefore consider that to be for your real good which brings you to your goal and that to be really bad which cuts you off from this goal. Prosperity and adversity, riches and poverty, health and sickness, honour and ignominy, life and death should not be sought after for themselves by the wise man nor are they to be avoided for themselves; if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, they are good and to be sought after; if they are obstacles to this, they are evil and to be avoided.”
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