Anni Harry shares her thoughts on the true secret to happiness, and encourages us to find inspiration from the saints.
Surveying my professional bookshelves at home, I see many authors, both secular and religious, who have touched on the topic of finding an interior peace. I would dare argue that most, if not all, secular-based self-help books also share the goal of helping their reader find “true” happiness and find peace and contentment. Our culture has an emphasis on making ourselves the best version we can be, while consumers are being offered the latest, the greatest, the shiniest, and the most advanced ways in which to be “actualized.” All of us want to be the best version of ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be our very best.
However, over the past couple weeks, I have found myself contemplating the statement found by St. Augustine in his Confessions, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in You.” It’s a quote I stumbled on years ago, which converged with a period in which much of my focus was shifting – from the world around me, to the more spiritual meaning of life. The quote encapsulates the entirety of the social construct to be the best version of ourselves, by reminding us that there is an answer to being our best. Unfortunately for secular society, that answer lies in the foundation of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) touches on the topic of happiness. Paragraph 2548 reads, in part,
Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God.
Each of us are made in God’s image and likeness, and our attempts to make ourselves the best version is our interior drive pulling us toward our Creator. Matthew Kelly’s ministry, Dynamic Catholic, produces many books which reference the “God-sized hole,” we try to fill up with everything in our lives … which can never be truly filled until God take His rightful place in our life. Our hunger for betterment cannot be satiated until we have embraced God and His role in making us a better person.
Paragraph 27 of the CCC reminds us, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for…” We cannot fully embrace ourselves, find happiness, or find contentment in the world around us without first turning to God. But, our God is a loving Creator, who doesn’t force Himself into our lives; rather, He waits for an invitation. A simple invitation to come and be center in our day, and in our life.
While God longs to be center, He doesn’t force Himself to be at our center of the life we build. Yet, as a bosom friend, or a most beloved family member, He doesn’t care if our house is a mess, if we lose our temper, or if we are skeptical. Rather, He joins us in that mess, in the throes of temper, and in our skepticism. He joins us by invitation, and more importantly, He walks with us through the day.
The embrace of God, however, doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. As St. Martin de Porres is known to have said,
Everything, even sweeping, scraping vegetables, weeding a garden and waiting on the sick could be a prayer, if it were offered to God.
This admirable saint, whose life was directly impacted by social injustices, racism, and father abandonment, gives us a stark reminder that everything, even the most simple of ordinary, daily tasks, is a way to embrace our Creator!
Embracing God is also reminiscent of the quote attributed to St. Frances of Rome,
It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.
While St. Frances of Rome’s own story might be different than ours, she faced the reality that sometimes our most well-prepared plan for our life isn’t quite where we are being called, and living faithfully to doing God’s will, instead of our own will, is what will satisfy our hearts.
Time and again, we see through the many saint stories out there that one of the many ways of serving God is to serve others. Taking what precious little downtime we might find ourselves with and offering that in a manner to help our neighbor, is one of the “secrets of happiness.” Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet’s book, Divine Mercy for Moms, even encourages mothers to flip the script on our internal voice – instead of “having” to do chores around the house, rather view those more mundane tasks as an opportunity to actively live the corporal works of mercy … toward those closest to us.
There is a heavy emphasis on self-care in our secular world, and that isn’t a bad focus! Each and every single one of us needs to spend time to do something for ourselves. Even the most religious of all men and women, and even religious orders, schedule in a time to “get away,” and focus on their own personal and spiritual needs. Similarly to the oxygen on the airplane, each of us must remember to occasionally step away from the housework, the commitments of volunteering or working, and the needs of our youngest ones, and re-charge our physical, and most importantly, our spiritual batteries.
Self-care doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, either. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost a dime. Rather, it can be “as simple,” as carving out a special time with Jesus once a week, or even once a month. It can be as unnoticeable as reading a book for pleasure. It can be sitting at a table and intentionally focusing on the warm (or hot) cup of coffee freshly poured, before settling into your morning routine. It can also be as non-descript as sitting with your prayer beads, raising your heart, mind and soul to our most loving God, before turning on the television.
As St. Augustine said, our hearts are restless. There is so much noise in our culture these days, it is truly difficulty to not experience restlessness.
Yet, God provides the rest. God reaches to us, weary, battered, fragile, broken humans that we are, and offers us His outstretched arms for the comfort of His embrace. He only asks that we reach for Him, even on the days when He seems the farthest away, or the days we feel most unlovable, or on the days that seem the messiest.
Are you ready to live your best life?
Are you prepared to experience true happiness?
Are you ready to reach out and accept God’s embrace?
Copyright 2021 AnnAliese Harry
Images created in Canva by the author; all rights reserved.
About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.