(an excerpt from “Christ the Ideal Monk” by Blessed Columba Marmion)
We were made to be happy; the human heart has a capacity for the infinite; only God can fully satisfy us. “Thou didst make us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee” (The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book I, Chapter 1). This is why when we seek anything apart from God or from His Will, we do not find stable and perfect happiness.
It may be said that in any rather numerous religious community, different categories of souls are to be met with. You will see some living in continual gladness. Their inward joy radiates outwardly. I am not now speaking of that sensible joy which often depends upon the temperament, the state of health, or of circumstances independent of the will, but of joy abiding in the depth of the soul which is like a foretaste of heavenly bliss.
Have these souls then never any trials? Have they no conflicts to sustain, nor contradictions to undergo? Certainly they have, for each disciple of Jesus Christ has to carry his cross (cf. Luke 9:23); but the fervour of grace and divine unction make them endure these sufferings joyfully. Other souls do not feel this gladness; inwardly, and often even outwardly, they are troubled, distressed, unhappy. Whence comes this difference?
Because the first seek God in all things, and seeking Him alone they find Him everywhere, and, with Him, supreme good and unchanging bliss…. The others are either attached to created things or seek themselves, by egotism, self-love, levity; and it is themselves too that they find—themselves, that is to say nothingness, and this cannot content them, for the soul, created for God thirsts after perfect good.
“What fills your mind? Where your thoughts naturally turn, there is your treasure, there is your heart. If it is God, you are happy; if it is anything mortal, unceasingly consumed by rust, corruption, mortality, your treasure will escape you, and your heart will remain poor and arid.” (Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, “The Sermon on the Mount”, 29th Day)….
But when the soul seeks God, and seeks Him alone, when it tends towards Him with all its energies, when it clings to no created thing, God fills it with joy, with that overflowing joy of which St. Benedict speaks when he says that in the measure wherein faith, and with it hope and love, increase in the soul of the monk, he runs, “with heart enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love, in the way of God’s commandments” (The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue).
Before Christ crucified we [remember] that, in contrast to the overflowing grace which makes the Church “holy”, we her children are deeply marked by sin, and cast a shadow upon the face of the Bride of Christ: no self-exaltation therefore but a deep sense of our limitations and weaknesses. Yet we cannot but be filled with joy, with that inner joy to which the Prophet [Isaiah] calls us, a joy rich in thanksgiving and praise, because it is based on our awareness of the gifts received and our certainty of Christ’s enduring love.Saint John Paul II, on January 6, 2001