Fr Jesús Castellano, ocd wrotes about joy as an important element for our spiritual balance, for our communities, for our mission. He wrote an article with the title “The Decalogue of Joy”, where he explains why we should be joyful… not only because “a sad saint is a sad saint”, but because this has human, psychological consequences and benefits the ecclesial body.
- The joy of gratuitousness
It is about always living with a sense of recognition and gratuity. The first allows us to live with a grateful heart before God. Gratuity invites us to constantly give ourselves to others, without paying too much attention to ourselves. Living with a grateful heart makes us aware of everything we receive from God, in times of prayer, in small moments of contemplation. It opens our hearts to service and love for others, it allows us to get out of ourselves and live the joy of communion, of relationship, with creativity, improving what surrounds us. Life open to others makes us share and give ourselves without taking its toll… with joy, freely.
- In front of God in prayer
Sometimes, almost unconsciously, we feel that our state of mind, even without serious problems, has shadow areas. It is enough to descend a little deeper into one’s own conscience to identify the small pains of the soul, our small pathologies, small blockages that do not allow us to enjoy the day to day. That way, little by little our spiritual energy is lost. In these cases, a little humility is the best ointment for our wounds -says Teresa of Ávila- and meekness, which consists in knowing how to put up with others, and put up with ourselves. All of this, if we take it realistically to prayer and invoke God’s mercy, is the best way to come out regenerated.
- Overcome the temptations of joy
Other times spiritual acidity stalks us, a kind of lethargy or indolence that takes away our desire to love, to believe, or to expect something new. A moment of reflection, a sustained prayer, putting a little order in our priorities, in our life, will allow us to recover spiritual harmony. It is possible that some part of our life (affective, spiritual, prayer, rest, knowing how to take time for ourselves…) we have neglected something. A readjustment of these vital constants will restore balance, light and joy to the spirit.
- The beauty of everyday life
Life is taken care of from the morning with small joys and surprises: the well-lived liturgy, the meeting with brothers, sisters, colleagues or work colleagues, food, personal hygiene, rest, a job well done, the Knowing that we are accompanied by people who love us… all of this forges a healthy spirituality of daily life, which allows us to face difficulties with energy, with good humor, looking on the positive side of things. And if we have the courage to share all of this, then joy is multiplied, it becomes communion with others, a positive flow around us.
- The joy of friendship
Who have a friend, have a treasure. A good friendship, with the saints in heaven and with those on earth, is always a source of joy, and a great consolation in difficulties. This is human and spiritual at the same time. The saints have had some great friends, who enhance our best version, encourage us to give more and better. Saint Teresa rightly said to her community nuns: “here everyone has to be friends, everyone has to love each other, everyone has to help each other”… It doesn’t happen with everyone, but when it does happen it is a gift from God that you have to take care. Saint Paul had Bernabé, Timothy… the great human and apostolic works are carried out in communion, helping and allowing oneself to be helped. We always have the spiritual means, with Christ, with the Father… but the Holy Spirit sometimes also raises up brothers and sisters who help us look in the same direction, and infuse us with joy and courage.
- Wisely face the present moment
A great secret of joy is the ability to live in the present moment. In reality, we can only live in the present. Now, if we become disillusioned and look back, we run the risk of becoming pillars of salt like Lot’s wife; or, conversely, if we run away from the present longing for a future that is too far away, that too is cowardice and lack of realism. Living in the present is trusting God to always have our feet on the ground, facing problems little by little without getting discouraged. Joy in this case is synonymous with courage, with the courage to be oneself, with simplicity, with humility, doing what we can in the place where God has placed us. This has to make us happy inside, other things will be wishful thinking, sources of frustration. Living the present moment with joy is valuing and enjoying what we are and what we have.
- Cordial relations
Being capable of sincere and cordial relationships is always a source of joy, “love is repaid with love”, says Teresa of Ávila. And we are always sons and daughters of Saint John of the Cross who said: «where there is no love, put love and you will get love». If charity is the tree, the leaves and fruits are cordial treatment of others. If charity is the fire, cordial treatment with those around us becomes the flame. We can do so much good with a kind word, with a smile… This makes life much easier. It is like the ointment – of which the Psalm speaks – that descends from Aaron’s beard, and creates joy and brotherhood around the same faith and a single love.
- The happiness of being in communion with everyone
It is important to be people without barriers or horizons, to be universal people. To be able to be each one as it is but not for that reason to break the communion with all the others. It doesn’t always happen… but the use of the media should broaden our thinking, make us more open and tolerant with others, with all of humanity. It is inconceivable that we are people of prayer and that the Lord has told us “go to the whole world and proclaim the gospel” and remain closed in our own convictions in our small group. Let us know how to extract joy from meeting, from diversity, from dialogue with people who may not think or feel like us, but are part of this world and have the right to live… and after all they are children of the same God and Father, who gathers us all, awaits us all and summons us all around his mystery.
- The positive meaning of spiritual life
It is good and healthy to always rejoice in being able to know and embrace the message of Jesus, and the experience of our saints, or good people of our time. There is much that is human, good, lovable, just, beautiful and holy among those who love God. Therefore, it is not always necessary to recommend sacrifice, asceticism, suffering, so that -from all this and only for this- the Lord can give us new life. We must also know how to welcome the positive that comes to us through prayer, people, the sacraments, the Church… Let us rejoice in the experience of having a God the Father who watches over each one of us who has promised us “a hundredfold here on this earth… and also eternal life.” Living in the grace of God and in communion with his mystery must fill us with joy, a joy that we can also share with those around us.
- A little human and divine sympathy
A joke, a joke, a song, a poem… sometimes they are a treasure of wisdom and sympathy that infects others and makes life more bearable. Facing life with joy and humor, with a pinch of mischief, protects us so many times from pathology that they do not help us at all… and serve as a springboard towards others, as an instrument of communion to make God and Christianity friendly. The spiritual joy that the apostle Saint Paul tells us about is perfectly combined with humor, as some of our saints testify.
* The humor of Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Teresa, in chapter 37 of “the Life” gave us a good example of how joy can be lived with a holy spirituality, when she speaks of the contrast with which she approached the confessors with a candid and joyful freedom of spirit showing them «grace », sympathy, and they, on the contrary, responded quite seriously and annoyed, showing him «misfortune», thinking that the beautiful nun was trying to win them over with a human love. The saint laughs at it, saying how she did it with great love and freedom, but making fun of such seriousness, since the Lord drew her to himself, there was nothing and no one who could separate her from this holy company.
Now, it is true that the Lord is human like us, because he fully shares our humanity, he becomes weak like us, divine and human together. A close and treatable God, a friend like no other. Teresa, on a certain occasion, seeing that he became so elusive in prayer, told him with ease and carelessness: «If I could hide from you when you seek me with love, as you hide when I seek you, you too could not tolerate this change in attitude. So, Lord, be to the pacts and do not treat the one who loves you so much like that». And just as she asks the Lord for this closeness and cordiality, she feels annoyed when she observes among royalty, nobles and lords a whole apparatus of appearances and ceremonies that make authentic and true relationships so difficult, an unbearable reality for her, since it is difficult to bear so much falsehood for those who want to live a healthy freedom of spirit.
Yes, Teresa even jokes with God. They say that, after having broken her arm, rolling down the stairs in the convent of the “Encarnacion”, he complained to our Lord and he told her: “that’s how I treat my friends”, to which Teresa replied: “that’s why you have so few.”
It is beautiful to talk to God in this way, when we realize, even in the heights of mystical life, that our God is “affable” and therefore we must imitate him. Affability of a God who speaks and who likes to communicate and that we want to dialogue with him, this is the simplest prayer: treat him as with a father, as with a friend. For this reason, the saints, imitators of God the friend, must be kind, so that people “do not be frightened or intimidated by virtue.” “The more holy, the more friendly with people” (inside and outside), Teresa advises her nuns. “I don’t want sadness and melancholy in my house” is a saying that has been attributed precisely to Santa Teresa, although very probably not exclusive to her.
“Do not be afraid – she said to her sisters – to show your joy”, so that those who look at you love your way of life and are not afraid of the Christian life; This is like advertising the joy and beauty of your life. That people are jealous of the fact that you have chosen to follow Christ in the contemplative life. They say that, on a certain occasion, she was near the door of the convent and burst out laughing. A somewhat scrupulous nun said: “Mother, the people outside will be shocked to hear us laugh so openly”, to which Teresa replied: “Better that they hear us laugh than cry.” And to a woman who approached a little sad and worried to say to the Mother: «who knows how many penances your nuns will be doing at this moment», Teresa replied: «Right now they are preparing a comedy for the Christmas holidays». Here are some examples of how the saints also know how to laugh, celebrate and celebrate the joy that God has placed in our hearts. So let us live with joy, because God, immense joy, incarnation of all mysteries, wants us to be happy, full of Him, light, happiness and eternal joy.