Consecrated Life: Joy

Consecrated Life: Joy

When Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Consecrated Life, he published a letter to all religious. In that letter, Francis set out what he expected from this “year of grace for consecrated life”. And surprisingly, in the first point the Pope expressed the hope “that the old saying will always be true: ‘Where there are religious, there is joy.’”

It might seem a bit strange, that the most important thing pointed out by the Pope was joy. Actually, none of the consecrated men or women have made a vow of joy. So, why is the joy of religious so significant?

First of all, joy is a sign of authenticity. It is almost impossible to feign joy. Usually, after a while, we recognize if someone is really happy or sad, even if that person feigns a smile. But of course, joy is something deeper than being cheerful. It can also come from some activities, commitments or a way of life, and that is even harder to feign.

Joy is neither an aim nor a means to an end. Joy comes as a result of good actions, good choices, or good things which happen to us. A Dominican philosopher, Józef Maria Bocheński, once wrote: “A wise man is doing what he has to do, and joy is a by-product”. In the Letter to the Galatians, St Paul names joy as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And St. Thomas Aquinas adds: “Joy is not a virtue distinct from charity, but an act, or effect, of charity: for which reason it is numbered among the fruits.”

The consecrated life is not an easy way of life. The religious profess obedience, chastity, and poverty which touch upon the most important spheres of human life. Humanly, people who have made vows limit themselves. But they do so because of God, His Gospel, and His great promise: “I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life”. By their vows, religious want to love fully, more and more. And I believe none of those want just to pretend that they love, and that they are loved and have been fulfilled by the way of live they have chosen.

But the litmus test whether they genuinely experience, and live in love, is the deep joy. In his letter to the religious, Pope Francis wrote: “We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.”

The Godzdogz team consists of student brothers studying at Blackfriars Studium in Oxford.