St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th Century Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church, said, “A sad nun is a bad nun. I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.”
As I was discovering this quote from St. Teresa, I was struggling with being happy. Life was really hitting some big old bull’s-eye on my back lately. I felt like the target of so many arrows, all of them minor things, but after so many punctures to your back it kind of gets you a little down!
I wasn’t being happy and I am generally a happy person. But ask anyone in my family and in my workplace and they would have to say that lately, I have not been very happy. One by one, those little stinging arrows were really getting to me and I was slowly becoming a person I didn’t like being with. I was depressed, feeling selfish and put upon, tired, and definitely not happy.
“If you feel sad and depressed, call on the name of God and the joy of the Lord will be your strength to carry on. His inner peace will overflow your soul and joy will bubble up on your inmost being.”
This quote is true, but it just wasn’t happening to me. I was trying, dragging myself to Mass each day praying for the strength to move on to happier times. But it wasn’t working. I was feeling further and further apart. Then I was hit with the “golden 2x4’’ as my husband calls it.
Last night, as I was praying desperately to the Blessed Mother for the thousandth time, a thought came to me. Or rather I should say, “Mom” planted this thought in my head: Mary had it tough when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus. In all those pictures, she looks so gentle and serene, but though she was without sin, she was still human after all, and people back then were just like people now, there were the gossips, there were people whispering behind her back, ‘what, pregnant and not married yet?” “She thinks she’s so holy and look what happened.”
Here she was doing God’s will, making her fiat to God when the rest of us would probably have questioned His methods, but she was firm in her reply, “Yes.” Despite what other people may have been whispering or even saying to her face about a perceived ‘wrong’ because if Joseph noticed, so did the neighbors, yet she was so very trusting in God that even these negative comments did not ruffle her gentleness.
Why did I let other’s ruffle my gentleness? Why could I not be the person God had created me to be and ignore the naysayers, the hurtful comments or requests and move on?
Hmmm…finally after years of praying for Mary’s gentleness and calm and knowing I was more like Joan of Arc and more warrior-like, I had found my relationship with Mary change. She did understand what I was going through, she had suffered through the gossip, the whisperings, the hurtful words and remained a gentle, forgiving, loving mother to our Savior.
“Joy makes your heart lighter.”
Yes, it does and so did our mother in heaven who I now know always understands me even if I think we are so very different! She didn’t have it easy just because she was born without sin. She didn’t have it easy because Jesus was her son. It all came flooding through me at that moment how very alike we were and how I could always ask her for her understanding and help in reacting to negative comments and hurtful things.
And now, I can joyfully say, “Yes, okay, Lord.” I know I have to withstand the slings and arrows in my life which are nothing like your own son or mother had to endure during life.
“Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love, joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. She gives most who gives with joy.” St Teresa of Calcutta
And I find joy again…