How to be Happy--- Be Catholic!
Do you dream of happiness?
When considering why or whether I should believe in God, whether I could believe in God, one of my biggest questions was "what's the point?"
It was a real epiphany to come to the answer: BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU HAPPY! St. Augustine of Hippo famously said this on it: "Our Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in You". The full quote goes like this:
"Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first. To call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher?
But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him. Let me seek you then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you; for to us you have indeed been preached. My faith calls upon you, Lord, this faith which is your gift to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son and the ministry of your preacher.
How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you?
But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend into the underworld, you are there. No, my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, if you were not in me. Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?
Who will grant it to me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you should come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself?
Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed."
-Excerpted from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I, Chapter 1)
This may not be THE answer. There are lots of other reasons to reflect on, another important one for me is the unbelievable comfort I have drawn from my Catholic faith and understanding of the world during my bereavement, but happiness is an important one and certainly was very important for me on my own journey.
It has to do with the fact that the Catholic faith confers a unique Freedom for Excellence, as I have written something about here.
This freedom for excellence is what leads to a productive life; it lends us to fulfilment and makes us happy. This combats the idea that freedom is affronted, indeed limited by law. John Paul II teaches that truth and freedom are anti-totalitarian in nature. His concern is that either truth or freedom might be given full autonomy. In this case either could quickly turn itself into a tyranny, and it would then be a matter only for intellectual connoisseurs whether this was "tyranny through truth" (in the name of an ideology claiming absolute rights for itself), or "tyranny through freedom" (a threat of total anarchy resulting from the collapse of inter-personal bonds, in the name of freedom, requiring a curb to be imposed). The Holy Father insists then that truth and freedom are both anti-totalitarian in character. This deals with the issues we see in the East, where the temptation of fundamentalism is increasingly attractive, adherence to truth being increasingly important. Freedom has become an abstract, difficult to attain and heartily less attractive in the economic and political spheres than the ideal which was envisaged and dreamt of for years.
The opposite has been the case in the West, where not freedom, but truth brings fear. Just acknowledging that absolute truth exists causes numerous difficulties; cries of intolerance and authoritarianism, the fear that individual freedoms will be forced to confirm to rigid doctrinal schema.
John Paul II then, opens a dialectic between truth and freedom in the belief that objectivity humbles tyrants and that the necessity of truth should be the condition of freedom. Totalitarianism is the child of moral scepticism, having cast itself loose from the critical authority that can challenge social structures. The prospect of an alliance between democratic civilisation and moral relativism fills the pope with alarm at its inevitable tyrannous tendency. A freedom to "create" moral values and "invent" right and wrong, has to be resisted in the name of evangelical freedom—which is the only freedom that can prove itself as a liberating social force.
I was reminded of this yesterday when Jeff Cavins posted a quote from John Paul II on his Facebook page. This is one of my favourite quote of Pope John Paul II on happiness and the yearning of the heart.
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves to humbly and patiently, to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
-Prayer Vigil, Aug 19, 2000 Rome
Benedict XVI puts it this way:
"In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ's Resurrection."
"What is needed to attain happiness is not a comfortable life, but a heart in love, such as Christ's." -Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
"Holiness is irresistible. If even 10% of the world's population had it the whole world would be converted and happy before the year's end." - C.S. Lewis