Monday, August 17, 2009

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Happiness

I've selected some of the passages from the Catechism that mention happiness as I meditate a bit on my last post. I started to put passages in bold that were particularly striking, but found myself bolding almost everything...

1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:
We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.

How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.

God alone satisfies.

1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.

2548 Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. "The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude. . . . In Scripture, to see is to possess. . . . Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive."

45 Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete (St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795}.

1723 The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love:
All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called "newspaper fame" - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration.
30 "Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice." Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, "an upright heart", as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.
1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

Profound stuff here. I see that seeking after happiness through the desires in our hearts is indeed God's idea. I remember Fr. Roberto at the CL Lenten retreat last year talking about how all of our desires are to be heeded as the beginning of the way to seek God. That seemed really radical to me. Of course, our desires can go quickly askew to the degree our hearts are impure, but this is the other startling thing I glean from this reading: the desire for happiness is key to how our hearts are made pure by God's grace. This is exactly how St. Augustine could say "Love God and do what you will," because the love of God will purify our heady, indulgent, disordered desires as we walk with our hearts open to Him and His Church. The openness has to be concrete, though, meaning that our lives need to be, to a fitting degree, open books to our friends in Christ. Else we too easily deceive ourselves. Hence all this talk of living in communion.

Golly, I love being Catholic!


Suzanne said...

I love it, too -- and also these quotes. Thank you.

Taylor Everett Brown said...

Marie, I think you and I are kindred spirits! I was researching the connection between happiness and the teachings of the Catholic Church for MY newest blog post and found that you have beaten me to the punch!

Further, it looks like our blogs share a "mission statement". Check it out:

I will definitely be checking in again!

Marie said...

Nice to meet you, Taylor. "Wrestling ideas on to paper" is one of my favorite images for writing. Thanks for stopping by.

bill bannon said...

This page is now on my homepage. Mass tomorrow.