Cultivating Joy: 2019 Lenten Reflections

Rockaway Beach, OR


My Catholic Counselor in a recent session, asked me, “Where do you find joy?” Everywhere. . .

According to Pope Francis, “Joy is the air Christian’s breathe.” Explaining even further in his May 2018 homily, Pope Francis elaborated, ” Joy does not mean living from laugh to laugh. No, it’s not that. Joy is not entertainment. No, it’s not that. It is something else. Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give. This is Christian joy. It is not easy to foster this joy.”

But how do we cultivate this lasting joy-the Joy of Christ that breathes life into a Christian? Not fleeting happiness but lasting and unwavering joy? A Joy inspired martyrs to sing and praise God while facing brutal deaths. We practice and cultivate joy. As Pope Francis emphasises, this lasting, unwavering joy isn’t easy to foster. But practice makes progress.

This Lenten Season, I will post a series of daily reflections to inspire cultivating Christian joy which essentially stems from a greater trust and reliance in our Heavenly Father and a deeper understanding and recognition of His love for us. He created us for love. He created the earth for goodness, truth, & beauty. We need to relearn or learn to recognize the beauty that surrounds us in this life and the next. Some of the reflections came from my recent reading of Haley Stewart’s “The Grace of Enough.”

“Oh my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve you. Enkindle your love in me and then walk with me alone the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it in peace.”
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

May God bless you & keep you this Lenten Season!

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you”

Song of Songs 4:7.

 . . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.

Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger.  . .

Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.

Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.

Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.

snowflakes
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . .  The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.

In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.

Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.

Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.

Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.