I took several catechism lessons from my daughters’ Seton Religion books and wove them into a personal letter to each of them in order to make the lessons more personal and to drive the truths of God home in such a way that would resonate with them. If they ever remember anything that I taught them, I hope that it is this.
A Universal Aspiration
Do you know what an aspiration is? An aspiration is a strong desire to do something, be something, or possess something. People have many different aspirations. Some aspire to be musicians, doctors, or librarians. Some aspire to go to college, while others aspire to go right into the workforce. Some aspire to be priests or religious brothers or sisters, while others aspire to be good husbands and wives. There are as many aspirations as there are people in the world.
But did you know that there is one aspiration that all people have in common? It doesn’t matter where they live, how old they are, or whether they are rich and poor. They all share this one dream, this one aspiration. They all want to be happy. If you were to enter a crowded mall and start asking people what they wanted more than anything else in the world, they would say, “I want to be truly happy.”
This desire to be happy is a part of being human. It’s something that all of us were born with. Who put this desire for happiness into our hearts? God did! If God created us with a desire for happiness, then this means that He wants us to have it! He wants us to be happy. If this is true, then why are there so many people in the world who are not happy?
Most people are unhappy because they are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. They are trying to experience happiness in all the wrong ways. They seek happiness in earthly things, such as riches, honors, and pleasures. They always have to buy something, do something, go somewhere, or be recognized for some achievement in order to keep going and “be happy.” They go from relationship to relationship, job to job, goal to goal, activity to activity, and purchase to purchase in a futile attempt to find happiness, only to find that it eludes and escapes them.
Novelty Wears Off
These things might be able to bring us temporary pleasure, but they cannot make us perfectly and completely happy. We take a trip, but sooner or later we have to come home and return to our normal, everyday lives. We purchase something, but sooner or later the novelty wears off, and we find ourselves empty again. We achieve and accomplish great things, but after the rush and recognition of these things pass, we find ourselves empty and restless again, ready to start up another project, another work.
Many of the things of this world, instead of making us happy, embitter our lives. They make our lives worse, not better. They clutter up our lives and cheat us of our joy and peace. Not only do riches, honors, pleasures, and achievements fail to make us happy, but after we’ve given everything up in order to possess them, they forsake us in death! They wave goodbye to us as our body is lowered into the earth, for we cannot take them with us when our soul enters eternity in order to stand before God.
Long ago, there was a king who lived in Israel. King Solomon was the wisest and richest man who was ever crowned and sceptered as Israel’s king. One day, Solomon decided to go on a search and discovery mission for perfect happiness. He wanted to find out what a man had to do if he wanted to find true happiness on earth. Because Solomon was rich, the sky was the limit. He could buy and do whatever he wanted, which is precisely what he did.
He filled his life with all sorts of pleasures. He cheered himself with the finest of foods and wines. He achieved great things by undertaking great projects. He built palaces for himself, planted vineyards, and made beautiful gardens and parks. He acquired servants, owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before him, and accumulated silver and gold. He acquired men and women singers to keep him perpetually entertained and amused. If all of this were not enough, Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines! One thousand women to love! He became greater by far than anyone else in Jerusalem before him. He denied himself nothing his eyes desired; he refused his heart no pleasure.
This is a man who purchased everything, accomplished everything, and received anything that his money and power could buy. And yet, at the end of his “search and discovery mission,” he learned that pleasures, riches, and achievements were absolutely meaningless as far as perfect happiness and eternity were concerned. They kept him temporarily distracted and preoccupied. For a few fleeting hours, they gave him pleasure. But in the end, they failed to satisfy his soul’s desire for happiness and meaningful purpose in life.
At the end of every accomplishment, honor, purchase, and achievement, Solomon had to admit that when he “surveyed all that his hands had done and everything that he had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless… nothing was gained.” He discovered that the only thing that could bring happiness to a living soul was to fear God and keep His commandments. He learned that no amount of riches, honors, activities, pleasures, relationships, or achievements could satisfy his soul’s desire for happiness, nor could they give his life any true meaning.
Long ago, Saint Augustine made a similar discovery. He, too, learned that knowing God, loving God, and serving God is the secret to perfect happiness. One day, he prayed the following little prayer to God – a prayer that is often quoted and has become quite famous among those who love God. His prayer was as follows:
“You have made us for Yourself, O God,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
That part of you that is always searching for happiness and meaning in life is your soul. Your soul longs for God, loves God, and wants to serve God. Your soul “misses God,” is jealous for God, and wants very much to be connected to Him, Who created it for Himself. Until your soul is connected to God, and you are loving Him and serving Him as He desires, you will never experience perfect happiness. It just isn’t possible. Buying toys and more DVDs will not satisfy your soul. A new shirt or piece of jewelry will not take away its emptiness. Going places and doing things will not bring it pleasure. Your soul wants God, not things. Your soul cries out for God, not for places to go, people to see, and things to do. The only thing that matters is loving God and serving Him. If we do these things, we will be happy, truly happy.
Possessions Possess You
Do you know what a possession is? A possession is something that you own; it’s something that belongs to you. You possess toys, books, electronic gadgets, clothing, jewelry, CDs, and DVDs. All of these things are your possessions, but which of them has truly made you happy? Take me into your room and point out to me which of these possessions has given your life purpose and meaning.
Satan has deceived many people into believing that the secret to perfect happiness is in the accumulation of possessions. The more things you possess, the happier you will be. But we know this isn’t true, don’t we? When you receive a new shirt, toy, DVD, book, CD, or necklace, these things bring you happiness for a little while. But sooner or later, you get used to that “new thing.” You grow bored with it. Soon, you don’t even notice it. Once that happens, those old “I’m-not-happy” feelings kick in and eventually take over your heart until you find yourself back in the store looking for the next thing that will bring you happiness.
There is only one Possession that can bring you perfect and lasting happiness: God! God wants you to possess Him! But how do we possess God? We cannot possess Him the way we possess a toy or a DVD. These are material things; God is a spirit. How do we possess One who is a spirit? We “possess” God by knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him. We “possess” Him by doing His will and bringing pleasure to His heart. Our happiness in this life, and the only way we can enter eternal happiness in the next life, depends on this.
This is the secret that Satan is trying to keep the entire world from discovering. He has deceived the world into believing that the secret to happiness is the possession of pleasures, riches, and honors. He has deceived people into believing that if they fill their lives up with interesting people and fun-filled activities, they’ll be truly happy. As a result, millions of people are ignoring God, when knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him, are the only ways they will ever find the happiness that they are wearing themselves out to find.
The Secret To Happiness
God created you for Himself, not for anything or anyone else. Until you start living for Him, you will never experience the happiness that He desires you to have – the happiness that your soul cries out for night and day. Your soul doesn’t want a new shirt, CD, or electronic gadget, nor does it have any use for them. Your soul wants God! The unhappy feelings that come over you from time to time have nothing to do with places to go, people to see, things to do, or purchases to make. It’s your soul’s way of telling you that you are not giving it what it needs to be happy.
If you are willing, God will help you to find Him and to live for Him. In His faithfulness to His children, He gives us grace (special help from Him) so that we will know how to love Him and serve Him in the way that He desires. This grace cannot be purchased in a store; it can only be received through prayer and the Sacraments. If you will do these two things, and if you will take the time to study our Faith each and every single day, God will give you the grace, i.e., the supernatural help that you need, in order to know Him, love Him, and serve Him, which is the reason you were placed here on earth.
Now that I have shared with you the secret of true happiness, it is up to you to act on this information.
Imagine a locked door and a key resting all by itself on a shelf next to the locked door. Although the key is important, it is absolutely useless unless you pick it up and use it to open the door. Knowledge is the same way. It is just like a key. In order for us to benefit from the knowledge that we have received, we have to use it; we have to act on it. We don’t want to keep the knowledge that we have received “resting on a shelf” in our head.
I have told you the secret to true happiness. I have given you the key. It is up to you to use it. Your decision to use the key or not to use it will determine whether or not you find perfect happiness in this life…
…as well as in the life to come.