Newsletter Subscribe
Australian Catholics Subscribe

PrayerBlog: The Gift of Happiness

Andrew Hamilton |  19 March 2017

The International Day of Happiness is a quirky celebration.  Most international days celebrate groups of people – women, children, journalists, refugees etc. Or they point to quite specific qualities that we need in order to flourish:  mental and physical health, peace, asylum etc. They encourage us to be attentive to particular groups of people who are impeded from flourishing as human beings, and to act to ensure that society provides for their needs.

In contrast the International Day of Happiness, celebrated on March 20, does not focus on any particular group. Though it certainly celebrates a quality that everyone wants but many lack, it is impossible to think of a program that would guarantee to make unhappy people happy. We can wish that other people will be happy but we cannot make them so.

Happiness Day reminds us that happiness is a gift. We long for it and are grateful when we receive it. But as is the case with all gifts, we cannot buy it. Nor can we lock it away in a safe to ensure that we do not lose it, or successfully sue people if they make us unhappy. It is not an entitlement.

But our desire for happiness is itself a gift. The longing makes us restless with what we have, makes us want more, while knowing that nothing can ever fully satisfy us. It encourages us to reflect on our lives and to ask what are the better gifts we should hunger for. When we realise that nothing can ever make us perfectly happy we are free to be thankful for the gifts we do have, especially our close relationships, and to be thankful for them.

That explains the surprising fact that many poor people are happy. Material poverty is not a good thing. But it does help us to focus on the surprising blessings that each day brings us and to be thankful for them. And thankfulness has a great deal to do with happiness.

Although we cannot make people happy, we can certainly create conditions under which they are likely to be unhappy. Dump people on Nauru and Manus Island and deprive them of freedom and they will be unhappy. Abuse and beat your partner and children and they will almost certainly be unhappy. We are often responsible for other people’s unhappiness.

Although we cannot make people happy, we can also certainly create the conditions under which they may be happy. In Catholic ministries where we accompany vulnerable young people whose lives have often been marked by neglect, violence, mental illness and addiction, we can offer them the respect and constancy that can help them to make connections, gradually to respect themselves and to appreciate the gift they are in themselves and can be to others. They must recognise the gift and accept it, of course, but it is a privilege to be part of their dawning of possibility.

Ultimately happiness comes from good relationships – to ourselves, to others and to the world in which we live. It is a gift worth desiring and a privilege to encourage.

 

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications.

 

Topic tags: familylife, catholicsocialteaching, socialjustice–globa, buildingpeace

Request permissions to reuse this article


Comments

Submitted feedback is moderated. Please read our comments policy. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Similar articles

Prayer blog: How about that weather?

Brendan Nicholls | 12 Sep 2017

It certainly has been a wet year. At Saint Ignatius College we have been flooded twice and survived a recent close call. We have spent many lunchtimes indoors as ‘the heavens opened’ during break times. Our football oval still has an average of two centimetres of water over the entire surface and the road near our school was 30cm under water for a second time last week.


PrayerBlog: Making meaning in our lives

Peter Hosking, SJ | 17 Aug 2017

Finding joy during the darker times will come easier if we practise finding meaning in the little things every day.


PrayerBlog: The Treasure Within

Susie Hii | 02 Aug 2017

A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by.


The Strength and Blessing of Indigenous Family Life

Australian Catholic Bishops | 28 Jun 2017

The following is an edited excerpt from the Pastoral Letter from the Australian Catholic Bishops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2017:

Just a few months ago an Aboriginal Elder in the Kimberley, well advanced in years and at that time in poor health, wrote a letter a few weeks before his death. It was written in copperplate style, in blue ink on thin note paper and was several pages long. His instructions were that the priest at his funeral might share the letter with the mourners in attendance at the church.


Faith Matters – Hilarious

Brendan Nicholls | 26 Jun 2017

We’ve just passed the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice and the end of exams. Teachers had one week to frantically mark all the papers and complete the lengthy process of report writing. As we all become a little run down, we will also inevitably see an increase in illness across the College as the winter cold and flu season begins. Just in time for the holidays!


Newsletter Subscribe
ACBC social justice