At Masses recently we’ve been reminded not to fear. We’re reminded to trust in God, as Mary and Joseph do so faithfully.
Soaring prices for basic needs, a new “tripledemic” (flu, RSV and COVID-19) and countless other worries are putting fear front and center lately.
To “let it go and let God,” as the saying goes, is a big ask.
What it requires is something we grapple with on the waves and troughs of our lives: faith.
We live and experience our faith in many ways. Sometimes its expressed decoratively, a folksy script painted on the lid of a bourbon barrel and hung on the kitchen wall — a breezy faith, gentle and kind. Faith in that form can buoy us as we gather around the table in life’s lighter moments.
At other times, we cling to it in the throes of crises, such as when someone we love passes from this earthly existence. Our faith provides hope and a road map for coping. We pray the rosary, yearning for the Blessed Mother’s assistance at the hour of death.
And afterward, we gather to express our faith in eternal life at the Funeral Mass.
But what of the grind — that hardship we face when money’s tight, hugging a sniffling friend feels risky, society seems a bit harder-edged than it used to and the world feels overwhelmingly like it’s on the decline?
Living out our faith in a loving God can feel like a heavy lift right now. And we may not know exactly how to do it.
A new book, published by the Vatican and an Italian publishing house last month, offers Pope Francis’ teachings on happiness. “Ti voglio felice: Il centuplo in questa vita” (“I Want You to Be Happy: A Hundred Times More Now”) also shares 15 steps to happiness.
Catholic News Service summarized the steps for English readers (and they were published in The Record Dec. 15). Some of them may help us tap into a sustained faith, one that opens our hearts wider to God’s hope for salvation and love for our brothers and sisters.
As Pope Francis urged during his Dec. 21 audience, he asks readers of the new book: “Return to within yourself.” Look within, he said at the audience, and be at peace in order to hear God’s voice.
He also suggests we remember that “we are unique, free and alive, called to live a love story with God.”
The Holy Father wants us to live a healthy restlessness that “always pushes you to keep on walking” rather than locking yourself away.
Happiness, he writes, also means learning to forgive. None of us is perfect, he says: “We all need mercy.”
He also suggests we learn how to interpret our sadness. Rather than something we try to avoid, he suggests sadness “can be an indispensable alarm bell.”
Dreaming big — moving beyond the mundane necessities of life — means that we can help make “God’s dreams come true in this world,” he writes.
For happiness, he also suggests that we take risks and live counter to today’s culture. “Cast out the fears that paralyze you,” he writes.
He also points out that happiness is found in relationship. “Walking with community, with friends, with those who love us, this helps us arrive at our destination,” he writes.
Be generous, he advises. “All of us are able to give without expecting anything in return, to do good to others without demanding they treat us well in return.”
Pope Francis also urges us to seek light amid darkness. “Lift your gaze from earth to heaven, not in order to flee but to resist the temptation to remain imprisoned by our fears.”
To top the list, he asks us to remember that God wants us to be happy.
In the new year, let us find ways to live these steps, seeking to live a faith in the God of love.