Recently I have found myself thinking about happiness. Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the kind of happiness that lasts the length of a mouth watering burger, or that flutters by at the sight of a butterfly. Sure, those things are happy, but temporary. It seems to me that being happy is rather different. So, what is it, where does lasting happiness come from, how is it attained and sustained?
Serving God, being in relationship and community (small and large) are the pieces of wood that keep the happiness fire burning in my soul. A particular quote has been fascinating me lately: "find happiness in making others happy". This is part of a letter Mary wrote to Sisters in South Australia in 1899. She instructed Sisters to visit the homes of their pupils and develop relationships. Essentially I think she was communicating that service and being in relationship with others / God, is an essential way to be happy. Even if sad or restricted, she was saying that it is best to not dwell in our own single worlds. We find God together, in and with others.
Our St Mary MacKillop wanted her Sisters to be happy and share happiness with others. She knew the joy of the Gospel and I'm sure would have loved Papa Francesco's Evangelii Gaudium. It makes me think of a story that a Sister once shared with me, she said Mary had laughed so much at one time that she almost fell off her chair!
In that same letter she further instructed Sisters to "...keep the Rule with regard to morning and evening Mediation, examination of conscience and other spiritual duties". I think she was saying that to behappiness in the world, means that we need to '"find" it too, it requires searching, choice, commitment and faith in God. The famous bloke we know as Jesus had the same message. Dare I say it, but maybe Mary stole a page or two out of his book? In Matthew 7, Jesus reminds us to go, be with, find - "Seek and find..."
Perhaps she was saying we can be happiness in the world by growing relationship interiorly and exteriorly, going out with acts of kindness and love. Micah 6:8 is central to the Constitution of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and further reminds me that God is asking us to go out, giving in acts of kindness and love: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
So, I don't think i've completely cracked the code, but I guess that's the point too. We are always learning, searching, seeking, finding and being acts of loving kindness along our earthly journeys - Muchas gracias Mary and Jesus! And a further thank you to Roslyn Kennedy and Sr Marie Foale for their help researching and understanding Mary's full letter (as below). We have an incredible Josephite community. I hope you enjoy this new cartoon and the video of the sketch coming together. I hope my small act of love stokes and inspires your happiness fire.
- The Sisters of Saint Joseph are currently in the middle of a process called Chapter. This gathering happens every 6 years and will help to determine future leaders and future vision of the congregation. Your prayers would be deeply appreciated: Pray with the Sisters here.
- If you are curious about what a 'day in the life' of my current ministry is like, you might enjoy this article.
- At this time we honour the anniversary of the passing of Julian Tenison Woods(130years). We give thanks for his life and are mindful that our Father Founder was a man of many things, including service and finding happiness: "We must love others so much as to feel no happiness so great as that of serving them and advancing their interests" (Julian Tenison Woods - 1870).
- View this month's News Flash: October #5
May the peace and happiness of Christ flow into our world...
Mary's Full Letter - Written in North Sydney, sent Sisters in South Australia -
St Joseph's Convent, North Sydney
21 November 1899
May Jesus and Mary be praised.
My dearest Sisters,
You will all find it strange not to be at Kensington for Christmas, but I hope you will enjoy that time all the same in your quiet little country convents. In each case you will find enjoyment and nice light occupation. You can be happy in your separate communities and you can enjoy occasional pleasant drives which I am sure kind friends will gladly give you. You can visit the homes of your pupils and find happiness in making others happy. You can have extra recreations on the great Feasts, but mind, you must keep the Rule with regard to morning and evening Meditation, examination of conscience, and other spiritual duties.
Let me remind you of one thing which you must not expect your Superiors to permit. Do not, on one pretext or another, ask for permission to go to Adelaide. You cannot get this permission. You are expected to remain in your convents. Certainly, when communities live very near each other, as some of you do, the Provincial can give you permission to visit each other and it will be nice for you to do so, or even spend most of the holidays together, but you cannot go to Adelaide or to distant places.
Exceptions to this are allowed, I think, in two cases and for reasons known to me and to the Provincial; but only in these cases do I allow the exception, and I am sure that my dear Sisters who made the September Retreat will remember what the spirit of obedience teaches them and so not violate it even in thought.
Be sure and let your Provincial know if you have all the study books required for use in each class. If not, she will see that they are provided for your use. Let the Little Sister of each convent let me know if the instructions regarding the giving up of keys and observance of small customs in each convent is carried out.
Wishing you, my dearest Sisters, every blessing, and promising a letter in each convent for Christmas,
I remain as ever
Your fond Mother in J.M.J.
Mary of the Cross