Tag Archives: Fr. Scott Traynor

Joy: Open wide your heart to God’s desire

God desires your joy. In fact, He wants you to be completely joyful: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Fr. Scott Traynor, Joy: God's desire

Fr. Scott Traynor

Jesus wants the measure of our joy to be his own joy. If I woke up this morning and didn’t spontaneously exclaim, “I am completely joyful,” well, there is something more for me to receive from God.

What is joy, anyway? It’s a desire of the heart that takes me beyond myself and the limits of the present moment in the confident assurance that the goodness, truth and beauty I have tasted in part is intended for me in a fullness beyond all I can ask or imagine.

I know, it’s a mouthful. But let’s take it piece by piece. Joy is a desire, not a point of arrival, accomplishment or possession. C.S. Lewis put the experience of true joy firmly in the category of desire — a nostalgic longing after something that is at once familiar, yet hard to define, ineffable.

What initiates this desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction? The encounter with goodness, truth and beauty. Goodness, truth and beauty awaken a desire for more! Our hearts are made for God and are restless until they rest in Him who is all Good, True and Beautiful. A beautiful sunset easily lifts my heart and mind to wonder at God’s surpassing and transcendent beauty. But what lover of beautiful sunsets ever says, “Okay, enough with the sunsets. I don’t want any more”?

In the experience of joy, however, this longing for more is not grasping or insecure. Rather, the awakened desire is surrounded by a confident assurance that this experience of goodness, truth or beauty is a gift — and the Giver of that gift wants to give me more. In fact, the Giver intends to give me a fullness of goodness, truth and beauty far beyond all I can ask or imagine.

St. Paul prays that we may know the height and depth, breadth and length of God’s love in Christ — a love that surpasses knowledge! Sounds impossible, yet Paul is confident that God is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 4:14-21). No surprise, then that Paul exhorts us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). No surprise either that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

So joy begins with an encounter with God — or something/someone in his creation that reflects or reveals his goodness, truth and beauty. This encounter awakens a desire for more that is assured, secure. It awakens a delightful and serene desire for a fullness of what I am tasting in part right now.

Indeed, upon reflection, Christian joy engages faith, hope and love. These gifts were given to us in Baptism and make a personal encounter and relationship with God possible. Faith is confident assurance in what is not seen, the capacity to know God and to know that what he says is true. Hope is a capacity to desire the Kingdom of God (think everlasting union with God) as my greatest good, trusting in his strength and not my own. Love responds to goodness, truth and beauty with a “going outside myself” in a sincere gift of self. So when faith, hope and love are engaged and detonate in the human heart, the radiance of that explosion is what we call joy.

In that light, let’s look at some practical ways to open our hearts to be filled with the fullness of joy. First, we can pray for an increase of faith, hope and love. Second, we can intentionally pay attention to and savor in our memories — our experiences of goodness, truth and beauty. The more we reflect on these catalysts of our joy, the more our joy will increase.

Finally, we can give ourselves intentionally to praise and thanksgiving: I praise God for who he is. He is holy, righteous, just, kind, merciful, good, true, beautiful, powerful, patient, loving, generous, etc. I thank him for what he has done, creating me, forgiven me, blessed me with his Holy Spirit, given his Son for me, died on the Cross for me, taught me, led me, comforted me, anointed me, healed me, and so much more.

The more we fix our hearts on who God is (praise) and what he has done (thanksgiving), the more readily we will trust him, know him and want him. We will grow in hope, faith, and love — and our joy will grow. Let us open wide our hearts to God’s desire for us — joy beyond all we can ask or imagine.

FATHER SCOTT TRAYNOR is the rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and chaplain of Legatus’ Denver Chapter.

From fighter pilot to faith fighter

Fr. Scott Traynor

Fr. Scott Traynor

Growing up in Minnesota, Fr. Scott Traynor dreamed of becoming a Navy fighter pilot. He attended Iowa State University on a Navy ROTC scholarship and seemed destined for a military career until one summer, while volunteering at a Bible camp, he realized he had never asked God what His plan was for his life. Father Traynor, 43, went on to be ordained a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2000. Today, he serves as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He’s an author, retreat master, and spiritual director for priests, seminarians and lay people. He spoke to Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

How did your love for Jesus Christ and His Church begin?

In my sophomore year in college, I started dating a very devout Catholic girl. I also met other Christians who were involved in their faith. I was really drawn to their joy. I started reading scripture and taking a little time each day to pray, to take time to talk to God about my day.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I ended up volunteering at a Young Life Bible Camp in Detroit Lakes, Minn. I woke up on one morning and I had three things on my mind. The first was: God has a plan for my life. The second was: That plan is how I’m going to be the happiest in my life. And the third was: I’ve never bothered to ask God what His plan was for my life. I was very convinced of these truths.

How did you discern a call to the priesthood?

I spent a year doing missionary work with National Evangelization Team Ministries. I stayed with many amazing Catholic host families as we were traveling. I found myself one day asking God to raise up outstanding priests for these wonderful families — and I clearly heard in my heart the Lord say, “I want you to be my priest.”

My first reaction was: “That’s not something I want to do.” I had an aversion to it, but I just told God, “If you want me to be a priest, give me the desire, and I’m there.” I just kept praying that way and God changed my heart. He gave me a very strong desire to pursue the priesthood.

How did you come to be affiliated with Legatus?

My first personal encounter was when I was invited to speak to the Twin Cities Chapter. I really enjoyed doing that and learning more about the organization. Then when I came to Denver to be the rector of the seminary, my predecessor had been the chaplain of the Denver Chapter, and the archdiocese thought it would be best to have me take over as chaplain and continue that great relationship between the seminary and Legatus.

What value do you think Legatus has in the life of the Church?

Legatus members are very successful businesspeople who desire within their vocations and their business lives to live out their Catholic faith seriously. What I love about Legatus is that gives its members an opportunity to be together and be formed — and to help each other live out their faith more deeply. As I get to know the members more, and hear their stories, it’s very inspiring to see how God has worked in their lives.

What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

I was born to an unwed college student. My birth mom placed me for adoption at birth. My mom and dad adopted me and two other children. Because of that, I have a great love for Catholic Charities and the great work they do in adoptions.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.