Joy

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Sow happiness about you ... They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy.” — Diary, 55

Our spiritual exercise this week is all about joy. We will delve into how our desires for happiness must correspond to God’s desires for us, and that we can be joyful as we endure trials at the same time. Many times, St. Faustina’s joy was intertwined with tortures she felt in the spiritual life. This week, we learn authentic joy from St. Faustina and the other saints. Let’s get right to it!

God wants us to be happy. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is possessed by angels and human beings. Joy grows in our souls out of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Saint Teresa of Calcutta used to say, “A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love.” She told her sisters that if they didn’t have joy in their hearts, they could pack up and go home. It might sound harsh, but she knew that the poor did not deserve to be served by grumpy nuns! She also often said, “Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” This is a bit similar to the phrase that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Speaking of which, no one wants to associate with a sour-faced person! Once when lacking the time to deal with pettiness, false piety, and grumpiness, St. Teresa of Avila said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!” The authentic joy that radiates from our loving souls can deeply affect those in our midst. As Christians, we are to exude joy. It actually will help to transform lives (our own, too!).

My former spiritual director Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, agreed with St. Teresa of Avila that our joy needs to be real. He also emphasized that our desires for happiness must correspond to God’s desires for us. In a lecture about joy, he said, “Who is the happiest being in existence? Who? God. And the most fundamental reason why God made us is that we might share in His happiness. Why go into the subject?” he asked. “Because Christianity is the religion of joy. There’s a sure way of turning people off or turning them away from the true faith if we who profess the faith are obviously unhappy. That is something, by the way, you can never mask. You can pretend to be happy. You can claim to be happy, but if you’re not happy, you’re going to reveal yourself. And finally, why go into the subject? Because even people who are more or less happy ought to be more happy.”

How do we become more happy and possess joy? Father Hardon explained, “Joy is satisfaction, or the satisfaction of having one’s desires fulfilled ... But ... only those desires satisfied which are truly good. What then is truly good which, once we get it and possess it, we are happy? [When] your desire corresponds with what God wants.”

One time when Sr. Faustina was given spiritual counsel by Fr. Andrasz, SJ, he told her:

Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful. Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then, generously to others. They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment. Keep well in mind the words I am telling you right now (Diary, 55).

She strove to do just that.

Torture and Joy Intertwined

Earlier, we discussed the time at Plock when Jesus revealed the Divine Mercy Image, and Sr. Faustina felt much uncertainty because there was no one who could tell her that she was on the right road. Then one day, one of the sisters heaped her anger upon Sr. Faustina. “You queer, hysterical visionary, get out of this room; go on with you, Sister!” She continued to lash out at her. Sister Faustina held her upsetness inside and rushed to her cell, where she fell down on her face before the Crucifix. She looked at Jesus, but she was speechless. “I could no longer say a single word,” she recalled (Diary, 128). Suddenly, Satan took advantage of her pain and planted doubts and discouragement in her mind. Sister Faustina thought, “How can one be sincere when one is so misunderstood? Jesus, Jesus, I cannot go on any longer.” She again fell to the floor under the weight of her anguish. “I broke out in a sweat, and fear began to overcome me.” She felt so alone. “Suddenly, I heard a voice within my soul. ‘Do not fear; I am with you.’ And an unusual light illuminated my mind, and I understood that I should not give in to such sorrows. I was filled with a certain strength and left my cell with new courage to suffer” (Diary, 129).

Even though Sr. Faustina felt a renewed strength after that trying incident, for some reason, she grew a bit negligent. In part, she was afraid of being deceived. She wrote, “I did not pay attention to these interior inspirations and tried to distract myself. But despite the noise and distraction, I could see what was going on in my soul.” God doesn’t leave us alone. He seeks us out. Sister Faustina wrote, “The word of God is clear, and nothing can stifle it. I began to avoid encounters with the Lord in my soul because I did not want to fall prey to illusions.” She continued, “However, in a sense,” she said, “the Lord kept pursuing me with His gifts; and truly I experienced, alternately, torture and joy” (Diary, 130). Sufferings were mounting and would soon come to a peak. Sister Faustina would make up her mind what to do about the doubts she was experiencing.

Something to Ponder

We know God wants us to be happy — truly happy. Yet, in the spiritual life, we will endure many trials. As St. Faustina shared in her Diary, she humbled herself in prayer before God when she was at her wits’ end with sufferings. God gave her peace and an abiding joy in her heart. We can be joyful and endure trials at the same time. The deep and abiding joy in our hearts is in knowing that in the end it will all work out. We know that there is eternal life, where we will indeed be happy forever with God in Heaven. When our hearts are heavy in anguish and trial, let’s be sure to always look up to God and ask for His help. Let’s ask for the gift of joy in our hearts, especially so that we can share that joy with others who might be struggling. Saint Teresa of Calcutta told me often, “Keep the joy of loving Jesus ever burning in your heart and share this joy with others by your thoughtful love and humble service.” That particular quote was taken from a personal letter that Mother Teresa wrote to me on October 5, 1988 (the 50th anniversary of St. Faustina’s death and now her feast day)!

A Merciful Action

All those around you in your family and beyond deserve to see your joyful demeanor and actions, and to hear your joyful words. It can be difficult when we are tired or suffering in some way. We need to pray for the graces and put forth the efforts. Carry out beautiful deeds of mercy this week with a joyful, loving heart!

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, help me to radiate Your love and joy to all I meet. Mother Mary, show me how. Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You! Amen.

 

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash.

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