Considering the Secret to Happiness

Pope St. John XXIII

“Our greatness, our glory is found in our serene daily efforts – without excess – marked by profound love for Jesus. In our daily effort to carry out the duty Providence has assigned us, we should give more attention to doing the little things well rather than trying to accomplish great works.”  Secret to Happiness: Wisdom from John XXIII (Classic Wisdom Collection, Pauline Books and Media).

Secret to Happiness Book Cover


My affection for Pope Saint John XXIII began sometime late in 2008, after discovering a new movie on his life from Ignatius Press Studios staring Ed Asner.  Honestly, my decision to watch was based purely on curiosity as to whether or not Ed Asner (of Mary Tyler Moore fame) could pull off playing the role of a pope.  I knew very little about recently canonized Saint John XXIII but was quickly drawn into this recounting of his life, ministry and papacy.  For the record, Ed Asner performs incredibly believably in the role of a humble, holy and witty John the 23rd!  At the end of the movie, Mr Asner had not only won himself a new fan girl but also had a new one for the affable pope.

In an effort to learn more about the real Pope John XXIII, I took to the internet. After being raised Catholic in a marginally Catholic home, and disconnecting for several years; I “reverted” back to practicing the faith in 2005.  My knowledge of the Catholic faith, especially of the early Church and  the papacy, was extremely limited.  After reading so much about John XXIII’s incredible reign as pope, I wanted to experience his spirituality in his own words.  I picked up Journal of a Soul: Autobiography of Pope John XXIII; and our spiritual love affair bloomed.  The only thing about this fabulous book I did not like was the size!!  While it is a blessing to have so much of his personal thoughts and writings to contemplate, it is a wee bit bulky for my pocketbook or ‘adoration reading materials’ bag. **Although, the majority of the spiritual reading I bring with me for my Adoration Holy Hour can be found on smart phone or iPad; I still love bringing books and novena pamphlets with me. These help me from straying off my reading and into social media on those days my resolve is weak!

Secret to Happiness

Pope St. John XXIII StatueStatues of Pope John XXIII at Lourinhã, Portugal

This is true of many of my favorite books by the Saints and classic Catholic thinkers and writers – hence my love affair with the Classic Wisdom Collection from Pauline Books and Media.  Therese of Lisieux, John Paul II, Francis de Sales, Luis Martinez, and so many others!

In Secret to Happiness: Wisdom from John XXIII , my spiritual journey with this dear Pope continued. As often happens when you seek guidance from the Holy Spirit; the theme and teachings contained in this book came at the most perfect time.  Struggling with envy and self-absorption, especially in my work, I found in Pope St. John XXIII the perfect words to guide me forward to God and away from these sinful inclinations.  John XXIII shared his own battle with these topics – which given how humble and obedient to God’s will he always appeared — brought me great comfort and hope!

Words of Wisdom

Along with the reminder to focus on my daily work, to be diligent and mindful of the importance of even the littlest task if done for the glory of God (as expressed in the opening quote of this piece), Pope St. John XXIII gave me additional words of wisdom. Another of my favorite lessons came in his discernment of how to reconcile his desire to be a saint with confusion on finding the path God had for him to accomplish this goal.  This goal of sainthood, I will remind us, is God’s will for every man and woman, not just popes! He wrote, “Well then, I do not want to become a saint by defacing an original painting in order to become an unsatisfactory copy of someone else with a character markedly different from my own.”   This statement hit a bulls-eye on the jealousy with which I had been wrestling.  As I watched other people succeed with projects that brought them recognition or perceived holiness, I longed for those same opportunities.  I was convinced that if I could be blessed with the same chances, my road to heaven and pleasing God would be fulfilled.

John XXIII taught me not to try to rework the masterpiece of another to fit me, but to allow God – through the submission of my will to His – to mold me into the original work of art I was created to be.  I was not created to be a carbon-copy; evidenced by my unique fingerprint and dental imprint (perhaps I need to watch a little less CSI – regardless the point still remains).  “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139). Jealousy and self-love have no place in the work of sanctification; His love and grace are sufficient to bring us all to sainthood, if we allow Him to accomplish His great work within us.

All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras
First Appeared onAssociation of Pauline Laity Blogspot, 2016

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