Author: Fr. Dylan Schrader
As a priest, I am frequently a witness to human suffering. So many people are burdened by loneliness, by anger, by guilt and the weight of their sins. Many people feel like life isn’t worth living. Here’s the thing: in a sense, they’re right. I don’t mean that life is really not worth living, but what I mean is that a certain kind of life will never make us happy. We are created in a state of restlessness, a state where we don’t have something that we need. We call this “original sin,” meaning that we start out lacking a share in God’s divine life, that gift of sanctifying grace that makes us the beloved sons and daughters of God.St Augustine said to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” How true. When we try to find happiness in anything apart from God, not only will we not succeed, we will foster despair in ourselves. When we focus on trying to impress others, trying to get back at those who have hurt us, sex, or achievement, we end up creating despair in ourselves. Why? Because those things deceptively promise happiness or fulfillment, but ultimately they will leave us emptier than before. Not only that, but they leave us thinking that there is nothing left that can make us happy: this means despair.
So, what can bring us real hope? Well, if our hearts are restless until they rest in God, then only a life centered on God–the real God, not a god that we imagine for ourselves–will lead to happiness. Only being on the path toward happiness will give us hope. So, if we want hope, we’ve got to make some serious changes, and we’ve got to be willing to follow the advice of the saints throughout the ages.
First, we should make a good confession. Seriously. We need to go to confession and tell the priest everything: all serious sins, specifically and by the number of times or frequency with which we committed them. We are repenting of each and every action that offended God, whom we are striving to love. Second, we need to resolve to go to Mass each and every Sunday and on Holy Days. Yep, even when we don’t feel like it, even when it’s boring, even when we have a soccer tournament. If the goal of our lives is union with Christ, and Christ himself and his sacrifice are made present for us in the Mass, we need the Mass. Third, we need to do spiritual reading (for example, the lives of the saints) and spend time in personal prayer every day.
These practices may sound simple or pointless, but have we really tried them? The saints recommend them to us, and the saints are the happiest people who ever lived.