Tag Archives: Joy

Serenity in deed – the difference between fun and joy

So what’s wrong with pleasures? Why not chase after them? Does Benedict want his monks to be miserable?

It may sound like that at first, but the longer you live by Saint Benedict’s advice, the more sense it makes. When you take pleasure in something (food, music, art, film …), the experience is agreeable but temporary. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out such experiences. In fact, the Bible recommends it: “I commend enjoyment, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and enjoy himself” (Eccl 8:15). So clearly there’s nothing wrong with having fun. But take note of that crucial stipulation, “under the sun.” Presumably, there are things even more worthy of seeking beyond the sun – like Heaven, virtue, truth, and above all, God. When we start to chase after pleasures, we confuse our priorities and become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4). 

Think for a moment of the rich young man whom Jesus tried to recruit in the Gospel of Mark. He went away sad, Mark tells us, because he had many possessions (10:22). The guy in the story refused a direct request from Jesus Himself simply because he was too preoccupied with his stuff. 

The students at my school often ask me why I quit being a beach lifeguard. Wasn’t that more fun than being a monk? Well, yes, in some respects. But in defense of my decision, I can say this: there’s nothing more depressing than a 40-year-old lifeguard. Everyone comes to a point in his life when he must choose between fun and joy. And to choose the former over the latter leads to a whole lot of emptiness. These decisions aren’t always life-changing, but they do have a cumulative effect; and they are often very difficult because joy takes work. Ironically, the rich young man went away sad because he threw in his lot with fun. When it comes to the bigger life decisions, we must have the wisdom to choose joy, no matter how fun the alternative.

Excerpt taken from Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem, by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B. (Ignatius Press, 2017), From Step 6: Serenity, “Serenity in Deed,” pp. 95-97. (Book is based on Saint Benedict’s 5th-century guide to humility, The Rule – ancient wisdom which translates into advice for ordinary people of any era). 

J. AUGUSTINE WETTA, O.S.B. is a monk of Saint Louis Abbey. He serves as the director of chaplaincy at the Saint Louis Priory School, where he teaches and coaches rugby. During his spare time, Father Augustine supervises the juggling team, cultivates carnivorous plants, raises carpenter ants, and surfs.

Extend Christmas joy, right from your kitchen

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! People are generally trying to be more attentive to others. There’s an aura that warms their hearts. The joy of Christmas awakens consciousness to give of oneself.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it beautifully in a 2005 homily: “Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money. We can transmit this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, with some small help, with forgiveness. Let us seek in particular to communicate the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that this presence of God’s liberating joy will shine out in our lives.”

My ancestors in Italy embodied this through the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, keeping in mind what this custom signifies.

Tradition holds that it represents the seven sacraments. Leave it to the Italians to teach the Faith with food! Nourishing our souls with the sacraments allows others to recognize the joy of Christmas within us, just as when the disciples recognized the resurrected Christ in the breaking of the Bread at the supper at Emmaus.

The urgency for Christmas should be to keep the joy of Christ’s coming alive all year. It can be done if we accompany those little acts of charity with a deeper, committed prayer life. A well-nurtured personal prayer life keeps charity growing within us, radiating as an external joy of Christ that others can absorb from us. During the Christmas season we tend to pay more attention to prayer and the sacraments. But once we get back to our regular routine, for some that extra prayer effort gets diminished or forgotten. This challenge can be overcome if one understands that: Non potest quis id quod non habet [one cannot give what one does not have]. Simply put: if one does not have Christ’s joy within, he cannot extend it!

In availing ourselves of the sacraments this season, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and keeping a simple prayer life like reading the Bible, or reciting the rosary, we will keep the joy of Christ alive in us all year. Without any great effort, we can bring the joy of Christ to others. His joy will radiate through all our good deeds and actions. Buon Natale!


Ragu d’Astice (Lobster Ragu) • serves 4

4 – 8oz. lobster tails*
1 lb. fusilli pasta cooked al dente
1 25 oz. jar Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara Cooking Sauce or sauce of your choice
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup white onion, finely minced
1⁄2 cup white wine
2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare lobster tails: crack tail and loosen meat from shell without detaching from tail.

In a 10-12” deep sauté pan, combine extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and onions. Sauté on medium heat until garlic is light golden and onions translucent.

Add lobster meat and tails, white wine, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to pan. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add cooking sauce to pan. Simmer low 3 minutes until tails turn red, meat turns white.

Cover; cook with lid askew for 3 minutes on low until meat is cooked through (make sure to not overcook lobster).

Cook the pasta al dente, drain it, and add in 1 cup of lobster ragu from saute pan to prevent pasta from sticking. Stir to mix well.

Plate pasta, top with lobster ragu, and garnish with chopped parsley.

*Optional: remove lobster shell before serving or leave to add to presentation. For a true Feast of the Seven Fishes, substitute any or all of the following: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, lobster, king crab.


CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.

Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas

Blessed John Henry Newman
Augustine Institute, 160 pages

Blessed John Henry Newman was a 19th- century leader of the Oxford Movement by which many intellectuals left the Anglican Church to embrace Catholicism. He also was an outstanding orator and prolific writer who inspired many to understand and live their faith more fully. These meditations stretching from Advent through Epiphany are in this vein as they invite us to contemplate such themes as our need for truth, our dependence upon God, Mary’s role in salvation, the meaning of suffering and martyrdom, and in what true joy consists. Pick up a copy now to reinvigorate your interior life this Christmas.

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Taking refuge in God’s heart

It is said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I believe it is also true that what can and will kill you can make you stronger. My beautiful sons are living proof of this.

Joe Sikorra

When our older son John turned seven, my wife, Lori, and I shared a parent’s worst nightmare: “Your son has a neurological disease. It is fatal,” the specialist said. Our hearts had been dealt an unimaginable blow from which I could not imagine recovery. It couldn’t be worse. Right?

Six months later we were told our other son, Ben, four years old, suffered from the same disease. Two sons stricken with the same debilitating disease, and a lifetime devoted to dealing with the effects.

“How tragic. How awful,” we heard. Yes. But can you also imagine these very same lives experiencing joy in abundance? Overflowing love and laughter alongside such heartbreak? Is it possible for all of these contrary emotions to exist within one heart?

St. Paul, whose life personified struggle, redemption, and joy, knew the words of Jesus to be true: “Not for man, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Along the difficult journey, Lori and I made numerous and wonderful discoveries about struggle, loss, life, death, friendship, resilience, support, depression, anger, faith, the power of choice, marriage, guilt, humility, pride, acceptance, and barbecuing. (Not all discoveries have to be life-changing.)

I didn’t choose the Batten disease road. Most people don’t choose pain. And Batten’s would bring all kinds of pain. But how we chose to engage in the struggle was made up of a myriad of choices daily. The battle was to find light.

Socrates once said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” To do that, I would not only have to examine, but act, trusting that each step would bring me closer to that light.

The struggle was crushing many days and understandably, for many families and marriages, the weight of those circumstances would have been too much to bear.

Our struggle was not against a diagnosis. That was a one-day event that quickly became history. If victory over the past were to occur, it would have to be found in the moment. But how? We would meet the enemy each day in the declining health of our sons. And each day we were given a choice as to how to meet it: either with courage, love and laughter or with despair.

We didn’t always win. Sometimes fear, rejection, and depression ruled the day. The battle was long and victory never assured. Love, hope, faith, and trust would be fashioned in struggle and tears.

Yet faith and hope would provide nothing if they remained just words found in scripture used as slogans. Those were the weapons offered, and if we used them well, the victory would yield peace and joy. Our lives seemingly continued to grow and become increasingly enriched as a result of the struggle that continually brought us to our knees.

We had to take refuge in God. The only other option was to turn away from Him.

As Paul writes, “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:11-12). Happiness isn’t found by keeping struggle at bay. Nor can it be denied. But if we learn to embrace it, we can utilize it to learn and grow and ultimately experience true joy in Christ Jesus.

JOE SIKORRA writes about his family’s struggle with the diagnosis of Batten’s disease for his two sons in his new book, Defying Gravity: How Choosing Joy Lifted My Family from Death to Life (Ignatius). He is also a marriage and family therapist and host of “The Joe Sikorra Show” on Relevant Radio.


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.


Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest Christmas music is filled with hope and joy . . .

Steven Curtis Chapman
Provident Music, 2012

This new recording from the legendary Christian singer showcases seven new, original Christmas songs penned by Chapman — and six classics. The lead single, “Christmas Time Again,” has been climbing the charts since mid-November. Joy is his third career Christmas disc. This CD, however, is particularly meaningful to Chapman — it’s his first Christmas recording since the tragic death of his daughter Maria in 2008.

Among the album’s 13 tracks are “Christmas in Kentucky,” inspired by Chapman’s home state and “Christmas Kiss,” written for his wife Mary Beth. Joy also contains some of Chapman’s longtime favorites like “We Three Kings,” “What Child Is This?” and “Christmas Time Is Here.”

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