March 19, 2010

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

Living with joy and gratitude in today’s world

Rick HermannRecently, I met a friend for lunch and we were served by our favorite waiter, a humble man named Moses.

As Moses wrote down our order, he smiled.

My friend asked, “Moses, why are you always smiling?”

Without hesitating, Moses replied, “Because it’s easier!”

He disappeared with our order while my friend and I laughed. Three people at the next table overheard us, and they also smiled.

“That man,” I declared, “has discovered one of the secrets of life.”

We all nodded in agreement, and our lunch tasted better than usual.

This modern-day Moses is indeed a wise man. His smile is like a pebble tossed into a lake, sending ripples outward to make life better, touching people he doesn’t even know.

Joy is like that.

Some say the fluttering wings of a butterfly can start a chain reaction in the weather, resulting in a life-giving rainstorm on the other side of the planet. I believe this.

Yesterday, I visited my parents and found them working in their garden. They labored with delight, just as our original parents must have done when they tended their garden in Eden.

My mother, in the middle of the garden, spontaneously broke into a familiar Broadway song and dance: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

My father quickly joined her in this recreation, and they finished with a kiss among the flowers and bumblebees.

Is it any wonder that I consider it a privilege to be their son? Of all the people I know, the most enjoyable are glad to be alive.

Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Perhaps the most joy-filled people that I have ever met are the nuns living at a Carmelite monastery near my home.

Like the nuns in the movie The Sound of Music, they live a consecrated life, meaning “set apart,” separate from the world. They have gladly sacrificed everything that we crave and grasp so desperately—money, power and prestige.

Nevertheless, beyond all worldly explanation, they are joyful, each and every one, giving themselves wholeheartedly to our Lord with thanksgiving.

If you visit their chapel, you will hear them softly singing songs of gladness and praise.

They pray for you and me, and for the whole world, so they touch all of us deeply, in a hidden way, whether we know it or not.

They create an oasis of joy that radiates outward.

Like my parents, they help me believe that the surest sign of a Christian is joy.

What is the source of joy? Believing that we are children of God, infinitely forgiven and eternally beloved, created for a wonderful purpose beyond our understanding, destined to share in God’s joys.

When I think of Jesus, I think of him smiling at the whole world, spreading this Good News.

Even when we frown at him, Jesus opens his heart and offers us forgiveness and infinite joy. Even if we spit on him, Jesus points us lovingly to the way, the truth and the life.

James counsels us to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (Jas 1:2).

Paul calls joy one of the fruits of the Spirit, and pleads with us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs … sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19).

So put a smile on your face, knowing that you are loved by God, and “enter into the joy of your Lord” (Mt 25:21).

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is

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