Catholic Joy?

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Another Trappist, Thomas Merton, was asked if  it was possible to tell if someone had truly undergone  inner purification, becoming transformed into the image of Christ.

“It is very difficult to tell but usually it is accompanied by a wonderful sense of humour.”

Humour, the ability to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously, puts the grueling process of inner transformation into perspective. If I am self-centered instead of God-centered, everything becomes intense and dramatic. When I take my eyes off myself, my faith, my religious practices,  my spiritual ‘progress’,  my sins and rather look at my Saviour, everything comes back into the proper perspective. I am filled with joy, the joy of the Lord.

There are many amusing stories about the saints which illustrate their joy. While on a journey to visit one of her convents,  a donkey dumped St. Teresa of Avila  into a stream of freezing cold water.  Standing in her water-logged, heavy habit, she yelled at God,

“If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”

Did you ever wonder how the plain, hard-working, celibate, 17th-century Shakers got their name? It is because they shook under the power of God and they danced with joy! One of their dancing songs is ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

No wonder they were persecuted and chased out of Europe; they scandalized staid, proper, miserable Christians. Just like when King David danced before the Lord with complete abandonment.

As Catholics, do we look on with scorn when we see anyone who is happy, moving and dancing in the Spirit? Remember how God reacted  not only to David but to his wife Michal;

[2 Samuel 6:17-22]  As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David answered his wife , “I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes….”

I am willing to wager that almost all religious, faithful Catholics would not model  the joyful David but scowl along with his wife Michal at such a scene. Yet joy is not just for Pentecostals; joy is also for intelligent, sophisticated Catholics. As C.S. Lewis explains,

“Joy is the serious business of heaven”.

Even though icons and holy cards often depict the saints and the entire Holy Family looking miserable and weak with tears streaming down their pale faces, the truth is the saints lived in God’s Presence and in His joy. St. Francis of Assisi is the most famous, joyful saint.  Look at our pope, whose namesake is Francis; his very countenance radiates authenticity, kindness, joy and the love of God. It is time to allow God to change our mentality and spirituality into one that embraces the Resurrection and Pentecost, not just the Passion.



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12 thoughts on “Catholic Joy?”

  1. Pingback: Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Easter” | St. John

  2. Pingback: TUESDAY MORNING EDITION - Big Pulpit

  3. Victor S E Moubarak

    “Somehow the average Catholic does not associate joy with holiness but believes holiness is synonymous with misery.”

    You’re right Melanie. The only time I see our priests smiling is when we have a second collection at Sunday Mass. If the Catholics believe so much in the Good News of Christ; why are so many of them going around as if they have a permanent bad smell under their nose? The last time I checked, there was no tax on smiling … yet !!!

    God does not want us to endure this life but to enjoy it to the full. When we meet St Peter he will not check if we have callous knees because of hours on end praying. He will check instead on our behaviour on earth.

    If you want a smile, join other Catholics and non-Catholics and non-anything on my blog

    God bless.

    Vic M

    1. melanie jean juneau

      Victor you have the ability to impart profound truths nestled into amusing, well-written stories.

  4. Then, there’s the tale of two Buddhist monks on their way and encounter a woman who is in desperate need to be with her sick mother on the other side of the river.
    Breaking the most cardinal rule of their order (touching a woman) he swims across the river with her on his back. Once back, he picks up his staff and starts walking
    with his fellow monk who derides him for his action all the way to the monastery –
    at which point turns to him and said. I took 10 minutes of my life to do someone
    a kindness but you my friend have been carrying her all day..

    1. melanie jean juneau

      great message in that story- As Christians we are blessed with the key to surrender our burdens, sin, obsessions to Christ. Yet it is difficult to surrender since we have a tendency to carry burdens and find it difficult;t to surrender them.

  5. In Evangelli Gaudium, Pope Francis clearly addresses the lack of joy which is quite pervasive in our world: p85. “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”.” Actually the it’s the first time sourpuss is used in an encyclical or apostolic exhortation, The document was originally written in Spanish, which has it as cara de vinagre – literally, “face of vinegar”. So “sourpuss” is basically an accurate translation, if not just a tad colloquial!

    In the second section of the apostolic exhortation Evangelli Gaudium (Pope Francis) he hits the nail on the head in describing the Joy of The Gospel as stolen by “the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” of those who “feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” with “a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism”.(page 94) He also noted that “In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy”.(page 95)

    You gotta love that man!

    1. melanie jean juneau

      Thank you for sharing Evangelli Gaudium. Pope Francis explain the obstacles to joy much better than I did. Perhaps focusing on sevice to the poor and the restoration of joy in the Church will be one of the hallmarks of his pontificate

  6. I have to admit that my wit and sense of humor were the sharpest when we took turns telling jokes at Cursillo. It all came crashing down a few months later when I came to grips with reality and recognized the Catholic faith as wishful thinking and scrupulosity.

    1. melanie jean juneau

      however, true Catholic spirituality is a journey into freedom and joy because the Comforter is always with us in power

  7. I’m not sure which images the author was viewing, since all my holy cards show either thoughtful or gently smiling saints. St. Pio is smiling in many of his photographs; so is St. Therese – and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I always took images representing suffering to be expressive of interior truth rather than a literal depiction of the appearance. I do agree with the Holy Father that there are ‘pickle puss’ Catholics who are thinking more of how much they disapprove of evil than of the joy of Christ’s presence; oddly, the smiling or laughing Buddha’s or monks never seemed to me anything except the self-satisfied smile of someone who looks in all with the benevolent contempt of one who is no longer fooled. The serious laughter of a saint is something entirely different.

    1. melanie jean juneau

      As a convert I was startled by the images of suffering saints, so those images were burned into my memory. The fact remains- Catholics focus more on the Passio than the Resurrection or Pentecost, even during Liturgical seasons of joy. The week after Easter, there were more images of Christ on the Cross than the Resurrection on Catholic Pinterest sites. Yet the whole reason Christ died was to set us free from sin and death. As St Paul says “Oh death where is your sting?”.

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