Does it matter in what way we are happy?

Two years ago, a friar gave me a pocket-sized book that forever changed the way I defined and sought happiness. 129 pages of plainspoken wisdom to be savoured and re-savoured.

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“What does it matter in what way I am happy?”

A fuller excerpt from Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness, a classic containing the writings of Fr Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and St Claude de la Colombiere:

Let me show you a good way to ask for happiness even in this world. It is a way that will oblige God to listen to you. Say to Him earnestly: Either give me so much money that my heart will be satisfied, or inspire me with such contempt for it that I no longer want it. Either free me from poverty, or make it so pleasant for me that I would not exchange it for all the wealth in the world. Either take away my suffering, or — which would be to your greater glory — change it into delight for me, and instead of causing me affliction, let it become a source of joy. You can take away the burden of my cross, or you can leave it with me without my feeling its weight. You can extinguish the fire that burns me, or you can let it burn in such a way that it refreshes me as it did the three youths in the fiery furnace. I ask you for either one thing or the other. What does it matter in what way I am happy? If I am happy through the possession of worldly goods, it is you I have to thank. If I am happy when deprived of them,it gives you greater glory and my thanks are all the greater.

St Claude de la Colombiere

Are there words that have changed your life, and changed you? (There has been no better time for new book recommendations!)

28 thoughts on “Does it matter in what way we are happy?

  1. Earlier in my life, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by Hannah Whittall Smith encouraged me greatly. In the last few years, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence has drawn me closer to Jesus.

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  2. I wouldn’t say it changed my life, but Tolkien’s quote: “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” is useful to remember when I would rather not do what I ought or if I’m having a bad day. I know Tolkien doesn’t have a cause for canonization or anything, at least not yet, but it’s still a good quote. Tolkien was, of course, a Catholic and, I believe, a daily communicant.

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  3. Hi, this is fascinating stuff! I have only recently come to understand the role of suffering in the life of a christian. Am I misunderstanding this post though as the prayer appears to be saying: I don’t care how You do it Lord – but just remove the suffering.
    Forgive my ignorance if this is not the case as I have not read the book… And it’s not that I’m against praying for suffering to end!

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    1. Hi, Mary Clare! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. This passage was lifted from a chapter on praying for God’s perfect will to be done in our lives. 🙂 The author acknowledges the necessity of suffering in the Christian’s life, and in this prayer asks God either to remove the suffering or to let it take its most desirable effect in him – whichever God deems to be better! For God knows which would lead him to greater happiness, and to give God greater glory. In the words of Jesus, Thy will be done!

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  4. A friend gave me Jacques Philippe’s book, “Searching for and Maintaining Peace” years ago. That 121 page book is power packed! Any one page grounds me when I’m restless or downtrodden. It has the ability to lift me up and calm me all at once.

    Thank you for writing light into a sometimes dark world! Christina, Oak Ridge, TN

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      1. Apologies for the late reply. I thought there might be a profound answer to your question, but there isn’t. Marcus Aurelius wrote the meditations to himself as admonitions about how to think and behave in the midst of his specific environment and his specific struggles. His Stoicism was a remarkably practical philosophy centered on simply surviving and staying sane in his world and they have always helped me stay sane in mine.

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  5. St. Faustina is my patron Saint. I bought her book on a Friday and was done with it on Sunday evening. I could not put that book down. I read it every Lent. There are days during the year I have to go back to it. One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “Lord get me out of me, so you can do with me what you will.” I try to say that daily.

    What all Jesus told her you will not believe. One thing He said to her I always think about, is that He offers His grace to everyone, but for those who refuse it, it will go to someone else. I think about that daily, as I need His grace.

    I think you will really like it, and I wondered after reading it, “Lord how do people get this holy?”

    If I can recommend a movie for you is St. Padre Pio, Miracle Man. I go to sleep almost nightly with that movie playing. What that man went through with the devil, is unbelievable. Just some FYI God bless, SR

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  6. There are things in life I can’t do anything about but that God would have me do something with.

    It has been in the school of suffering that I have received some of the most, if not the most, profound instruction from Him.

    By what other means would I perchance have learned some of what it is to be loved so supremely and utterly by God my Father or to experience my Savior’s welcome that I may safely rest my entire being against His breast for as long as eternity is forever and ever?

    Your invitation to share I am certain has and will, beyond this moment, lead those who read your post to encounter divinely appointed remembrance.

    Thank you.

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  7. My favorite quote comes from Raplh Waldo Emerson, it reads…”To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived…this is to have succeeded”

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    1. Thank you for sharing! That reminds me of another one of my favourites: “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received-only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.” -St Francis of Assisi

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  8. Wonderful post. I think a book well there were two which impacted me the most were St. Faustina’s Diary, and St. Rita. Of course St. Faustina making us understand the mercy of God, when a way I never realized. St. Rita, just because I do not know to this day, how she prayed to God to take her sons if they were going to lose their souls, in taking revenge on those who killed their father. They both died!

    As a mother how she did that I will never know!!!!!!!!!! I do not know if I could do that or not, though I know it would be the right thing to do, concerning the souls of my children. I stay in awe about that all the time with her. God Bless, SR

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    1. How interesting – the same friar who gave me the book in my post recently asked me to read St Faustina’s Diary as well. And I shall!

      That’s an amazing and inspiring story – thank you for sharing! She cared about her children’s souls above all things, including her own attachment to them. Wow.

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