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Can We Be Happy in This Life?

As I write this, it is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, a saint celebrated for his happiness.

It can be easy to allow ourselves to be deceived or misled as Catholics…to think that we ought not seek to be happy in this world. We are called to suffer and carry our cross. We are not, however, called to be miserable in our suffering.

It is true that Our Lady told Bernadette “I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next”. We ought not assume, though, that this meant that Bernadette was miserable in this world. From writings on her life, we frequently read of how joyful she was; how witty and cheerful.

Saint Bernadette exuded joy and happiness because her focus in this life was on the next world; on eternity. Yes she certainly suffered much; but she suffered joyfully.

Happiness from worldly pleasures, worldly desires and whims, is fleeting. This is not the happiness we, as Catholics, ought to seek. Happiness gleaned from living and fulfilling our purpose, though, is enduring. It is this happiness we ought to seek.

According to Positive Psychology, the branch of psychology dedicated to the study of happiness, it is when we are involved in right action, in purposeful action, that we tend to experience happiness. If the happiness we seek is tied to our purpose - to knowing, loving and serving God - we can be assured we are involved in right action, in purposeful action. And thus that the happiness we achieve and experience is righteous happiness.

What might be the next right action in our lives, though? Often our next step is unclear. We can feel uncertain. If so, let us look to God’s order for direction; for guidance toward the next right action… God. You. Others. All three must be tended to, as is God’s design.

God first in all things. How can you better know, love and understand God? How can you take the next step of care toward Him?
Perhaps it is in: 
  • Spending more time with Him
  • Meditating on His love, or on His justice
  • Reading the lives of the saints and experiencing how they loved Him
  • Studying the Catechism to learn the truths of the faith
  • Finding a daily devotional you enjoy that inspires you to seek Him more frequently and fervently
  • Finding little moments of presence with Him throughout the day: conversing interiorly with Him while we sit next to a cot soothing a baby; inviting His guidance while we think through a difficult conversation we may need to have; bringing our sorrows to Him to be carried and soothed
  • Being grateful and thanking God for what is good and right in our lives at this moment.

You next. How can you better love and understand yourself? How can you take the next step of care toward yourself
Perhaps it is in:
  • Reflecting on hobbies you used to enjoy and peppering more of these moments throughout your week 
  • Seeking peace and silence from the noise of a full house, however fleeting it may be
  • Immersing yourself in nature
  • Taking rest
  • Cancelling plans
  • Decluttering
  • Making plans to meet up with a friend
  • Putting a line through the to-do list
  • Focusing on your mental or physical health
  • Accepting support from others
  • Learning to trust others
  • Letting go of a relationship that doesn’t serve you in your Catholic faith
  • Healing emotional wounds
  • Noticing your inner critic and adopting a more compassionate way of speaking to yourself
  • Drawing a boundary to protect yourself or dodge dramatic dealings with colleagues, friends or family members
  • Slowing the speed of life inside your home.

Others next. How can you better love and understand others? How can you take the next step of care toward others? 
Perhaps it is in: 
  • The daily duties of motherhood: the nappies, the meals, the school work, the listening, the refereeing, the encouraging, the guiding, the tidying, the cleaning, the washing, the dropping off and picking up, the packing lunches, the playing games, the talking through, the answering questions, the patience, the admitting mistakes, the comforting and consoling, the advising, the taking care, the lending a hand
  • Being your spouse’s helpmate with love and kindness
  • Apologising to a friend
  • Lending a listening ear for another’s sorrow and grief
  • Refraining from giving advice
  • Cooking a meal for a new mum
  • Volunteering time to those in need
  • Visiting an elderly neighbour
  • Contributing baked goods to a parish fundraiser
  • Relinquishing control over others
  • Stepping back and allowing those you love to experience the consequences of their own action or inaction…allowing God to be the ever-present guide in their life; allowing His eternal and infinite wisdom to bring about the necessary life lessons they may need, rather than those we think they need
  • Learning to see, love and accept others as God sees, loves and accepts them. Not trying to change them, but accepting them as they are and offering ourselves as a guiding light when they choose to follow

Omitting any of the three - our responsibilities to God, our responsibilities toward ourselves, our responsibilities toward others - leads to disorder and imbalance in our lives and disorder and imbalance in the sentiment we tend to have toward our sufferings and duties. To eliminate resentment and instead approach our cross and our duties with an energised and happy heart, all three pieces of the puzzle must be tended to. All three must be balanced. 

It is in doing so that we can better ensure that we are involved in right action. We can better ensure that we are fulfilling our purpose. We can better ensure our happiness and joy in this life and in the next

I can personally attest to the addition of self-care allowing me to move from resentfully fulfilling my duties, to joyfully doing so. My cross and my sufferings look the same now as they did many years ago. But many years ago I was resentful, not joyful. 

Self-care does not eliminate the suffering associated with motherhood, it fuels us to endure the suffering joyfully.

Dear Saint Francis of Assisi, help make us happy like you. Help make us joyful like you. You have said “all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle”. May your cheerful example be the light we follow in our quest to find our next right action, in fulfilling our purpose. May we in turn be a cheerful light for others to follow.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible” - Saint Francis of Assisi

Know that you are allowed to be happy whilst fulfilling your purpose in this life. Take care of you and Let Truth Bloom.

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  1. Thank you, loved it. Rose O’ Hagan

    1. Thank you, Rose :) I love that you enjoyed the post.


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