Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holy Contentment

1. We must not think that there is anything sad or sullen about virtue. It is quite otherwise. Virtue is the only real happiness. It is a quiet contentment, based on and depending on God, which is not afraid of dangers or difficulties because it knows that everything can be overcome with the help of God. I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). This happiness is not founded on passing pleasures, but on the confident expectation of the everlasting joys of Heaven. It can exist even in the midst of difficulties and sorrows, because these detach us from the world and raise us to a higher level. When the Jews first persecuted the infant Church, the Apostles were said to have been happy to suffer for the name of Christ (Act. 5:41). This is an example of the contentment which accompanies virtue, the peace which neither threats nor injuries can destroy. Seek this lasting happiness. Do not despise the lesser pleasures of this world as long as they are innocent, for everything is good and beautiful which comes from God. Do not become too fond of them, however. Remember that God alone can fill our hearts with real happiness.

2. Some people picture the Saints as grim and austere men, shut away in the ivory tower of their own sanctity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly, there were some who practised austerities and penances which would astonish and frighten many of us today. Even in the midst of the voluntary acts of mortification, however, they were full of holy joy. They no longer craved for anything in this world; they desired Heaven alone. It is said that St. Romuald's countenance was always so radiantly cheerful that anyone who looked at him felt happy. The gaiety of St. Philip Neri and many others has become a well-known legend. Heaven was already in their hearts. We cannot all arrive at such a height of sanctity, but we can and must avoid vain and sinful pleasures and search for the real happiness which comes from a good life.

3. There is a story told about St. Francis of Assisi and another brother who were approaching a monastery after a long journey. They were tired and hungry and it was late. "When we arrive at the monastery and knock at the door, the porter may not recognise us," St. Francis said to his companion. "He may send us away with hard woods under the impression that we are a pair of thieves. If that happens, we shall be made to look ridiculous and shall have neither food nor lodging for the night...That would be pure joy. I'm telling you!" Naturally, it woud be impossible for everyone to become quite as detached as this from worldly things. But we should all have that confidence in God which gives peace and spiritual contentment during the trials of life. The joy of Christian resignation is the knowledge that everything we suffer for the love of God helps us to merit Heaven.

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