Sadness, depression, complaining and gossiping, anger and bitterness, despair in life—all of this characterizes the environment of workplaces, offices, companies, and even many homes.
Saint Thomas Aquinas makes a somewhat obvious statement and it is the following: all are called to happiness. Everyone in the world, irrespective of time, place, culture—all have a great desire to be happy.
Why then is it, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, that so many, and we repeat, so many people are everything but happy??? The response is the following: they are looking for happiness in the wrong places. A fish placed on the top of a building, a bird plunged into water, a cat placed in the company of a dog—all are simply in the wrong place!
Likewise, the human person who pursues happiness in the casino, in wine and whiskey, in the pleasures of the flesh referring to sexual promiscuity, porn viewing and licentiousness, not to mention drugs and overeating—all of these cannot produce true happiness. Indeed, all of the above can produce transitory or ephemeral pleasure, but not true joy, not true happiness. Pleasure can be bought with money and depends on external stimuli; whereas, true happiness comes from within; true happiness comes from God; true happiness is this intimate relationship, better said, Friendship with God. True happiness comes from union with the Holy Spirit who gives us both His Gifts and His Fruits; one of these fruits is joy, very much akin to HAPPINESS!
Saint Augustine, who looked for happiness in pleasure (sexual addiction until he was 31), after his conversion, in his classic Confessions, penned this immortal line: “O God, you have made our hearts for thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” True happiness can only be found in God, in a deep, personal and dynamic relationship with God.
Therefore, we who have encountered God in a deep and personal manner in our lives, it is incumbent upon us to share this joy with others. Pope Francis’ document summarizes our central theme: The Joy of the Gospel. Those who have understood the message of the Gospel, which actually means Good News, should not keep this joyful Good News to themselves, but be ardent and zealous in sharing it with others! This being the case, we would like to offer ten simple ways in which we can share the joy of the Gospel, the joy of union with the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit with an angry, depressed and even despairing world!
1. SMILE at the angry person. One of the clearest signs of union with God is the joy that radiates from a SMILE. Many things are contagious and that includes a smile; try it and you will see its effects! One of the highlights of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, is the smile on the face of this saint, as well as her sisters!
2. I AM PRAYING FOR YOU! Upon bumping into a grumpy and sad person, why not say to him/her: “I am praying for you!!!” You might even add: “You know, God really loves you as someone precious to His Heart!” Who knows, maybe this person has never heard these words in his/her whole life!
3. OPEN THE DOOR! Upon entering some building take the initiative to open up the door for that person who arrives at the place at the same time that you do! This is symbolic! You are desiring that one day God will open up the door of heaven for you as well as for this person. Jesus pays undivided attention even to the smallest detail. He said: “I tell you, those who give even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones will not go without his reward.”
4. KINDNESS. Try to be kind in words as well as in gestures. The opposite of kindness is meanness! We all know what that is. When somebody says a mean word to us, it is almost as if we were stung by a wasp with those words—the poisonous venom stays with us. Kindness is the exact opposite; it is like a gentle and healing balm that anoints our soul. (Read Father Lovasik’s book on KINDNESS.)
5. A KIND LOOK OR GLANCE. Even something so simple as a kind look or glance can indeed be very consoling to somebody with a wounded heart. Indeed, words can be very encouraging, but the same can be said with a loving and encouraging glance. How many athletes have gone beyond their physical limits because there was some person encouraging them by a mere encouraging glance of the eyes!
6. GIVE A HOLY CARD. Giving a holy card of Jesus, Mary, the angels, or one of the saints can serve as a concrete reminder that in the midst of loneliness and the dark nights that we all must traverse, we are really never alone, rather, God and the angels and saints are present with us. Small reminders can have huge impacts on the lives of the fallen and depressed. God is close to those whose hearts are broken.
7. TAKE A WALK! Maybe there is a family member who is going through depression—it might be your teenage son. Then why not invite him to take a half-hour nature walk. Exposure to the trees and the multi-colored leaves, the sound of the chorus of birds chanting their songs of praise to the Creator, the gentle breeze caressing your faces, the bright and warm sun a source of solace and healing, the fresh smell of cut grass, the blue sky really the mantle of Mary—all of these can serve as a means to lift the cloud of depression and radiate joy and happiness!
8. TALK WITH THE WALK. During the course of the nature walk, engage this person—maybe your teenage son—in conversation. However, first highlight the good qualities that God has endowed him with. There are many, but he may not be aware of them. It is up to you to highlight them and encourage him to cultivate them. These 30 minutes, exposed to the beauty of creation that comes from God who is beauty itself, as well as an encouraging conversation can turn the tide of depression to renewed hope and happiness! Try it and you will see!
9. JOKE!!! When you run into a sad-faced and joy-less individual—and there are many out there—tell an honest, clean, humorous story or simply a joke! The great orator Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, would often start off his conferences or lectures with not one joke, but three! This would dispose the audience for the rest of his talk. Maybe you can buy a good and I would highlight CLEAN joke book, and learn a few so as to spice up the life of the sad and the depressed! We all like a well-told, timely joke or humorous anecdote!
10. MARY/OUR LADY: CAUSE OF OUR JOY! In the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary one of the short phrases apropos of our topic is “Mary, Cause of Our Joy, pray for us!” It is recorded in the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, known as “The Little Flower”, that she was suffering from a very painful sickness when she turned to a statue of Our Lady and she smiled at Saint Therese; she was instantly healed of her ailment! Therefore, in conclusion, let us offer up fervent prayers to Mary, Cause of Our Joy, for many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering acute depression in one form or another. Through the intercession of Mary, may the sad and depressed recognize that true happiness can only be found in union with God. Our Lady teaches the world this in her canticle of praise that we call the MAGNIFICAT: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…” Like Mary, let us LOOK TO THE LORD and be radiant with joy!
Father Ed Broom, OMV, is Associate Pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and was ordained by Saint John Paul II on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction.