Unconventional Happiness: Things I Learned at Cafe Catholica

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence. If you’re wondering where I am, I’m hidden behind the post in the choir loft.

The topic for last night’s lecture at Cafe Catholica focused on happiness and the decisions we make. I also did a bit of Mass Journaling this time. The readings from yesterday were part of the “tough love” readings in the Bible that many people would rather avoid reading, but as Fr. Ray Cook (the celebrant) said “We have to walk through the bad things. The readings always have things to tell us, but we always focus on ourselves, on things that make noise.” Although he never quoted Mother Teresa, I felt like Fr. Ray’s homily echoed the idea of God speaking in the silence of our hearts.

Last week was a real treat for me because everything was new and exciting, but this week, I had to take a step back and not get overly excited. Part of that meant trying not to sing as loudly so that I could harmonize with the choir (a problem stemming back from my children’s choir days). And when I didn’t socialize as much as I did last week, I accepted that sometimes, it’s better to just enjoy whatever small talk you make with people. You might find things about your friends that you never knew and will learn to appreciate.

Tonight’s speaker was Sr. Mary Guido, a Cenacle sister. She opened her lecture with this question: Have you ever allowed God to ask “What do you need from me? What are you looking for? What do you want?” The answer of course, can be found with the classic St. Augustine quote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God calls us to happiness, to be one with Christ, to have a union with God, others, ourselves, and all creation.

The rest of the lecture looked into religious life and decisions in the modern world. It amazed me at how much of religious life can apply to laypeople like me. An example of this can be found within the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows aren’t just for priests, monks, and nuns, but for everyone. The vow of chastity means loving completely, without exception. There’s a wonderful video from Fr. Robert Barron that explains the kind of love Sr. Mary is talking about. It’s not the romantic, emotional love that’s seen in a Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s an unconditional kind of love that takes us outside of ourselves. The vow of poverty means remembering that the things in our lives are not our gods. The things that we want to have are just means, and not ends. And the vow of obedience meas listening to God, completely surrendering ourselves to Him.

How does all this apply to discernment in the modern world? The word “discern,” according to Sr. Mary, means to sift out things, getting to the heart of the matter. It’s not necessarily “What will I do?” because we are all called to be saints. We are all working towards Heaven. The real question is “How?” Echoing what Fr. Ray said before, Sister Mary said to notice times of peace within ourselves. We won’t always get it right, but our actions will either lead us closer to God and away from him. She recommends keeping a record for a month and see what caused anxiety and what things caused peace within our daily lives. She also recommends getting a spiritual director. She ended the lecture with a quote from Fr. Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”



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