Finding True Happiness (2013)

After midnight Mass at Christmas, the cathedral in Nashville handed out copies of a little book called Finding True Happiness. Because the chapters are only a few pages long, it has served as nighttime reading for us. Collected from several of Fulton Sheen’s books, each of the chapters communicates little nuggets of gold for the spiritual life. I don’t know much about Sheen, but a quick Google search reveals that he is Venerable and lived most of his life prior to Vatican II—the latter item perhaps explains some of the more rigid language contained in the book. That language doesn’t spoil the book; it just makes parts a little unsavory.

By and large, however, the book is helpful and filled with valuable nuggets for the spiritual life.

So what is true happiness? “It is God you are looking for,” writes Sheen, “You were made for perfect happiness. That is your purpose. No wonder everything short of God disappoints you” (16).

These sorts of insights continue through discussions of silence, rest, humility, desire, truth, patience, contentment, and will. Mostly he advises participating in deep silence in order to listen to God; resting in God so as to know peace; being humble so as to know our place in relation to the Ultimate; desiring God alone so as to satisfy longings; pursuing truth; practicing patience; experiencing contentment; and abandoning our wills into God’s will.

In the final chapter of the book, there are a few paragraphs that represent the best the book has to offer. While discussing the topic of will, he writes,

It is typically American to feel that we are not doing anything unless we are doing something big. But from the Christian point of view, there is no one thing that is bigger than any other thing. The bigness comes from the way our wills utilize things. Hence, mopping an office for the love of God is “bigger” than running the office for the love of money.

Each of us is to praise and love God in [our] own way. The bird praises God by singing, the flower by blooming, the clouds with their rain, the sun with its light, the moon with its reflection, and each of us by our patient resignation to the trials of our state in life.

. . . If Our Lady did not say Fiat to the angel, she would never have become the House of God; if Our Lord did not say Fiat to the Father’s will in Gethsemane, we would never have been redeemed; if the thief did not say Fiat in his heart, he never would have been the escort for the Master into Paradise.

. . . We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us. God sent the angel to Mary, not to ask her to do something, but to let something be done (77–78).

May we live into the “yes” of Mary, Jesus, and the thief. May we rest in God always, now and ever.

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