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HAPPINESS  MANUFACTURERS
          Spiritual Challenges For Youth

 

HEDWIG LEWIS SJ

 

You have in your heart 
a yearning for total “happiness”.
To what extent 
have you fulfilled that yearning?
What are the methods and measures 
you have used in your pursuit of happiness?

These are some of the questions this book strives to answer

 

For information regarding this book CLICK HERE

 

 Foreword

“Happiness” cannot be manufactured, as such. But the ingredients that go into ‘producing’ it are abundantly available. Like any good product in the market, all depends on your choice of ‘raw material’ – their finer qualities, the proper proportion, and the state-of-the-art technology to ‘assemble’ them. But after all the effort, however sincere and strenuous, happiness is not yours to get, it is Life’s to give!

Said a puppy to an old dog: “In a course on philosophy I learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing my tail; and when I catch it, I shall have it.”

The old dog replied: “I, too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in my tail. But I've noticed that whenever I chase it, it keeps running away from me; but when I go about my business, it comes after me.” 

Happiness must not be pursued; it must be created.

The search for happiness is often the chief source of unhappiness.

A great obstacle to happiness is to anticipate too great a happiness.

There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. The place to be happy is here; the time to be happy is now; the way to be happy is to make others so.

Happiness adds and multiplies as we divide it with others

Happiness is something more precious than gold or silver. If happiness could be bought with material wealth, few, if any would be able to pay the price.

Happiness cannot be 'invented' – it has to be ‘discovered’. Truth is, I can make it my ‘business’ to live happily and let others around me live happily. If I have the right attitudes and behaviour, I will be ‘producing’ happiness. And the sounder my attitudes, and the more ‘perfect’ my behaviour, the greater will be the quality of the happiness created.

Happiness is not a mechanical or electronic gadget – like TV sets – that I enjoy watching in my living room or present to people for their enjoyment and pleasure. I cannot hold it or hand it over. It is more like perfume, which through some chemistry affects you and those around. Even if you empty the container by sprinkling it on others, some remains on you.

Then again, happiness is not something that happens once and for all. That is, it is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of travelling. As Amy Lowell put it in her poem Happiness:

Happiness, to some elation;
Is, to others, mere stagnation.

Only those who are constantly vigilant, with mind and heart turned in the right direction, experience happiness at all times.

Another important aspect to the above fact is that this train called ‘Life’ has no ‘stations’ : it is always on the move. You cannot remain the ‘same’ even for a second – even though you may appear to be unchanging externally. For, at every point of life you are changing, becoming ‘better’ or ‘worse’; increasing your happiness or diminishing it, however microscopically minute the change may be.

Those of you who have grown potted plants may understand this better. When the seedling emerges from the soil, it looks tiny. You may observe it for an hour or two, or more, and yet notice no change whatever. But leave it to itself, and the next day you realise it has shot up some length. In stages you have the stem, the leaves, the bud, the flower.... But you have to keep watering it regularly. If you fail to do so, you will hardly notice its deterioration till one day you wake up and find it dead!

You cannot go through life without at every moment in given time, either increasing or diminishing someone’s happiness, as well as your own. There is no middle way. This is something that needs deep reflection.

Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances. The happiest people do not necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. For it is not your position that makes you happy or unhappy -- it is your disposition.

The Source – the be-all and end-all – of human happiness is God. Happiness is God’s free gift to His children. Happiness will never be yours if you do not recognise to some degree that God's blessings are given you for the well-being of everyone in the world. You must, therefore, keep your happiness in circulation. And the best means for doing this is through contact with God and outreach to your brothers and sisters on earth.  

       
INTRODUCTION

In his bestseller The Power Of Positive Thinking, the famous pastor and author, Norman Vincent Peale, describes an interesting experience in a railroad dining car.

Peale was seated across from a husband and wife, who were strangers to him. The lady was expensively dressed in furs, diamonds and costume. But she was having a most unpleasant time with herself. She openly criticized everything: the car as being dingy and drafty, the service as being abominable, and the food as being unpalatable. Her husband, who seemed to know his wife rather well, in contrast, was a genial, affable, easy-going and adaptable person. He seemed a bit embarrassed by his wife’s critical attitude and somewhat disappointed, too, because they were on a pleasure trip.

In order to change the conversation, the man turned to Peale, asked what business he was in, then informed him that he was a lawyer. And, with a grin, he added, "My wife is in the manufacturing business."

Peale was surprised because she did not in the least look the type, so he asked, "What does she manufacture?"

"Unhappiness," he replied. "She manufactures her own unhappiness."

It is strange, but there are quite a few people have made it their ‘business’ to be unhappy, and in turn, make the lives of those around them unhappy. It takes quite some skill – and a sense of humour – to live with such people and not let their negativism rub off on ones own attitudes and behaviour!

On the other hand, we come across those exceptional people who have made it their business to ‘manufacture happiness’, in the context explained in the Introduction to this book. Through such raw-materials as: a positive attitude, an optimistic perspective toward all circumstances and events; a genuine heart for others – in cordial relationships and selfless service; unconditional generosity; a sound value system, a sense of justice and tolerance, and, of course, an "interior life" – which implies self-knowledge and acceptance, and an intimate relationship with God.... they develop a ‘culture’ or an approach to life by which happiness gets ‘manufactured’ for common use.

As you have realized, happiness is never for yourself; it always involves others, and the Other! You cannot ‘manufacture’ happiness only for yourself or by yourself; it is a product that requires ‘team-work’, and is meant both to be personally enjoyed and freely shared.

Harold S. Kushner in How Good Do We Have To Be? beautifully illustrates this aspect:

In a small Polish village, most of the people were poor and unlearned. They had to fight with one another and compete against each other to eke out a meagre living. Resentment and anger ruled the poor hamlet.

But there lived in the village one man who was widely admired for his learning, his wealth, and his piety. One day a dozen leaders of the small town were astonished to receive an invitation to his home: "You are invited to Reb Isaac’s home next Tuesday evening at six o’clock for a dinner worthy of Paradise." Dinner at Reb Isaac’s! A meal worthy of Paradise! The invitees could hardly wait for the day to come.

On Tuesday evening, the guests all arrived at Reb Isaac’s beautiful home promptly at six and were ushered into the dining room, where the table was elegantly set with fine china, crystal and silver. When they were seated, a servant brought Reb Isaac a bread roll over which he recited the blessing. Then the servant set a bowl of soup before Reb Isaac, but nothing before his guests. Reb Isaac began to eat the soup, commenting, "Mmmm, this is such good soup. I don’t remember when I’ve had such tasty soup."

The guests were puzzled; why weren’t they being served as well? When Reb Isaac finished his soup, he motioned to his servant, who cleared the dish and placed before the host a plate of succulent meat and vegetables – but again, nothing for the guests. Reb Isaac continued eating, "Oh, my, this is so good. You have no idea what you are missing. This is so tasty, I love it."

Finally, one of the invited guests blurted out, "Reb Isaac, I don’t understand. Have you brought us here to mock us? We were invited for a dinner worthy of Paradise, but you alone get the meal and we only get to watch you enjoy it. Why are you doing this to us?"

Reb Isaac smiled. "A meal worthy of Paradise indeed? What did you think it would be? Is Paradise a famous restaurant? Is Paradise somewhere one wants to go for its fine food and wine? No, Paradise is a place where people love each other enough to take pleasure in another person’s happiness. Paradise is any place where you can see your neighbour being successful and not envy him for it. Paradise is a place where people know that the truly important things in life are present in such abundance that there is plenty for everyone; we don’t have to snatch them away from one another."

Paradise stands for happiness. Jesus was sent to us from ‘paradise’ on a mission to establish a ‘heaven on earth’ as far as is humanly possible. Of course, His understanding of happiness is, as would be expected, different from the perception commonly held. He called His paradise the ‘Kingdom of God’. It would be a ‘place’, or an environment – or atmosphere, where ‘godly’ values would flourish. Only in such a condition does true happiness exist. Every follower of Christ, therefore, is called to be a "happiness manufacturer" and is entrusted with the mission of establishing God’s Kingdom, in the midst of other secular responsibilities.

There are some, however, who devote themselves wholly to this task. These are "happiness manufacturers" or "missionaries" – including priests, nuns, social workers, dedicated parents, teachers, and others – who believe in God’s power, who transcend and help others transcend human limitations and evils, through prayer and Gospel-values.

Creating an environment for your own happiness, as we have seen, entails a necessary dynamic by which you make others happy. You cannot be happy only for yourself. Happiness, unlike material wealth, cannot be stored up. It must be circulated if its freshness and value is to be retained. The more you give, the more you are enriched. There is both an unlimited supply and an unlimited demand. There is room for as many "happiness manufacturers" as there are people on this earth, for the supply is far less than the demand.

This book contains simple meditations, in the form of stories and reflections, to help you build the sound basis that is needed for an effective "happiness manufacturer". The first part focuses on your relationship with God – The Source Of All Happiness. The second on you, the Happiness Manufacturer, a co-creator (1 Cor 3.9) with God.

Happiness Manufacturers is addressed to you, young men and women, who are fired with God's love and Christ's challenge to go to the whole world and spread the Good News – "the Kingdom of God has come". Some of you may have received the "call" to become Priests, Brothers, or Sisters, or to follow a ‘way of life’ that is closely related to these. Others may choose family life and a secular career, but would still like to pursue their inner urge to serve their fellow humans, especially the downtrodden, in whatever way they can.

Perhaps you are yet too young to make a decision about your future, and you are still "thinking" about what to do. You may be an ‘aspirant’, a ‘postulant’, a ‘prenovice’, or ‘novice’ – in a convent or seminary, who is discerning God’s will and is preparing the ground for a future course of action.

So, welcome to the world of happiness manufacturing. Like in any other business, you will face ups and downs, trials and errors, triumphs and tragedies.... But if you take things with a sense of purpose, and are prepared to face challenges with firm faith in your heart, your job-satisfaction and personal-enrichment will be guaranteed. Besides, you are never alone in this venture; you always have an ever-available and all-knowing ‘partner’ – God, if you learn how to consult and collaborate with Him at every step you take. All the best!

THE SCHEME OF THE BOOK

AIM

This book is chiefly directed to young men and women who wish to spend some time in prayer – at least ten minutes, preferably daily, or as often as possible.

STRUCTURE

The book is divided into thirteen "Themes" each having four "sets" of relevant inputs, equaling 52 in all. There are 52 weeks in a year! The themes are arranged in a certain progression, so it may be good to follow them in sequence. Each set, we hope will offer ample matter for reflection so that it can be spread over a week.

However, there is no hard and fast rule to be followed. The figure 52 is not sacred or magical. It has been chosen only for convenience, with a suggestion that one must pray all through the year. The book is not a "project" to be completed within a specific time-period, but offers experiences to enrich your life. There is no need to hurry through the pages, or force the pace; allow God to lead you on. Follow your inspiration and your prayer-need.

Each ‘set’ has a regular pattern:

First, there is a STORY or POEM, followed by a few comments.
Second, several Questions for reflection.
Third, there are suggestions for further meditation: references from Scripture or ‘quotes’.
Fourth, there is another anecdote/story/poem.

Note: On the Title Page of each Section there is a PRAYER. This could be used at the start of every session of prayer for the sets in that Section

PROCEDURE  FOR  PRAYER

Different people have their individual styles for prayer. Below is one procedure. Follow it if it helps.

1. At the start of every prayer-period take a moment to get yourself together. Make an ‘Act of Presence’. That is, keep silent, still your body, recollect your thoughts. Remind yourself that wherever you are – God is present. You are about to increase your awareness of that Presence, to make it more real to you, because you are going to commune with God, to spend some time with a Friend, a Father or Mother, a Beloved or Lover!

These few moments are important because they will help you make the
transition
from whatever you have been doing to what you are about to undertake. If you rush into formal prayer, there may be a danger that you may carry your distractions of your previous task in your head and they will keep interrupting your prayer.

Note that the ‘Act of Presence’ is itself prayer.

2. Say something to God by way of acknowledging the Divine Presence. For example:
"Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever
" (Ps 16.11).
"I have come to You to take Your touch.... Let Your eyes rest upon my eyes for awhile" (R. Tagore).
Next, make a short prayer expressing your desire to spend time with God; For example:
"God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You" (Ps 63.1).
"O God...I always stay close to You, and You hold me by the hand.... What else have I in heaven but You? Since I have You, what else could I want on earth?" (Ps 73.23,25).
"I pray to You, O God, because you answer me; so turn to me and listen to my words" (Ps 17.6).
"Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening" (1Sam 3.10).

Pause to listen to God speaking in your heart:

"... you are precious in My eyes, you are honoured and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you" (Is 43.5).
"Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.... I have written your name on the palms of my hands" (Is 49.15).
"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I will help you" (Is 41.13).

Then you may say the prayer found on the Title Page of the section you have taken up.

3. Now that you feel assured of God’s Presence and your own longing for prayer, you can read the first story in the set of prayer you have chosen. After you have finished, close your eyes. Become aware of your thoughts and emotions. Recall the ideas that moved you. Reflect on them. Speak to God about what you are thinking or feeling.

Once satisfied with your own reflection, and if you would like to proceed, read the comments below the story. If they lead you to further reflection by highlighting an insight you have missed, carry on your reflection. Share your insights with God.

Next, take up the questions given and answer them. Pray to God as your heart directs.

Further, look up the references from Scripture, or the quotes provided. Raise your heart to God in words or in silence.

Note: You may not have time to do all the above in one session of prayer. Spread them out over the days ahead.

4. Do not end your prayer-time abruptly with the reflection. Say a word of thanks to God for being with you. Ask God for Grace to translate your prayer into your life.

5. At night, before you retire, you can spend a few moments to Review how your prayer for the day was spent. You may want to make some changes in the time, place, or method of prayer in the next session.

5.  A  SUGGESTION

It would be good if you also include in conclusion a prayer for those who are called by God to make "happiness manufacturing" their exclusive ‘business’: priests, sisters, brothers.... Pray therefore for "vocations" to the Priesthood, Brotherhood, Sisterhood. There is a real need in the Church, especially in Mission lands, for men and women who are totally given to the service of God; for those who can take up the challenge of making our materialistic world understand the true nature of ‘paradise’ – the Kingdom of God.

We suggest that you conclude your prayer-period as follows:

Say an Our Father and end it with a short invocation such as "Heavenly Father, give the young men and women whom your Son ‘chooses’ and ‘calls’ to accomplish His mission, the generosity and courage needed to respond by joining the seminary or convent.

Then say a Hail Mary and end by imploring our blessed mother to help you and all young men and women to ‘listen’ to the ‘voice of the Spirit’ and say ‘yes’ to God's will in all circumstances of life.

Finally, close with the Glory Be.

A  FEW  SAMPLE  PAGES

Section One:   OUR SOURCE OF  HAPPINESS

He was just a little boy; and on this the week’s first day
He was wandering home from Sunday School and dawdling along the way.
He scuffed his shoes into the grass. He found a caterpillar.
He found a fluffy milkweed pod, and blew out all its filler.
A bird’s nest in a tree overhead, so wisely paced on high,
Was just another wonder that caught his eager eye.

A neighbour watched his zig-zag course and called him from his lawn.
He asked him where he’d been and what was going on.
"I’ve been to Bible School," he said, and turned a piece of sod.
He picked up a wiggly worm, replying: "I’ve learned a lot about God."

"M’m, very fine way," the neighbour said, "for a boy to spend his time.
If you will tell me where God is, I’ll give you a brand new dime."
Quick as a flash the answer came, nor were his words faint:
"I’ll give you a dollar, Mister, if you can tell me where God ain’t."

I.  GOD’S  LOVING  PRESENCE

Lord, my God, you created me
because of your great love for me.
Every time I have responded to your love, 
I have experienced your life
filling my heart to overflowing. 
May I become ore and more aware 
of how your unconditional love 
has been sustaining me from the beginning
up to this very moment of my life.

Father, all the things that you have created, 
you have lovingly presented to me as gifts, 
so that I may recognise you more easily in them
 – everywhere, at all times,
 and offer you praise and thanksgiving.

Teach me to use these gifts wisely
so as to deepen my love for you. 
Let me not get carried away
by their attractiveness 
or make them the main focus of my life.
For I desire t have you, Lord,
as the centre of my being.
My goal in life is to be with you forever.

Enable me, with your love and grace,
to develop a heart and mind that is so totally free 
as to take a balanced view of all reality.
Let me not be unduly preoccupied
with either health or sickness, wealth or poverty,
a long life or a short one.
Let me live by the conviction that everything
you created and anything that comes my way, 
can be for me a revelation of your love
if I am open to see you present everywhere.

Let me constantly choose only those things 
and persons which lead me to you, 
and put aside those that do not, 
so that I may experience your Spirit in me 
in all fullness, shaping me
into the image of your Son. Amen.
                                      Hedwig Lewis

 

1.  OUR  WELLSPRING

There is an old story of the Keeper of the Spring, a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired many years earlier by a young town councilman to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town.

With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise have choked and contaminated the fresh flow of water. The village soon became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants was picturesque beyond description.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semiannual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man's eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, "Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know, the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer." By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man's services. For several weeks, nothing changed.

By early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped of and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A few days later, the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odour was soon detected. The mill wheels moved more slowly, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgment, they rehired the old keeper of the spring, and within a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps.

God is the Almighty Creator. Though God created humans and entrusted his creation into their hands, He continue to remain its primary Caretaker, its source. Nothing would survive and flourish without His loving, constant presence. God’s involvement in this creation is not ‘mechanical’ but ‘personal’. He is not a one-time inventor but a full-time Father and Mother. He is constantly tending His creation with love, ensuring the free flow of the stream of life within us. He keeps on empowering us so that we can be ‘happiness manufacturers’.

Do you acknowledge God as the Source, the Fountain of life?
Does this story remind you of God's presence in the world?
How deep is your awareness of the Creator of All Things who is constantly taking care of his ‘creations’ – especially his ‘masterpiece’ – the human person – a reflection of his own image?
How convinced are you of God’s involvement in your own life?
Do you realise that without God’s tender loving involvement your inner springs would get corrupt and die?

Pray the beautiful Psalm 104 on Creation.
Use these verses as Mantras for the day: "In Him we Live and Move and have our Existence." (Acts 17.8). "You, Lord, are all I have and you give me all I need." (Ps 16.5)
Meditate on this passage: Mt 6.25-34: "Be not anxious...."

I’ll tell you the tale of a gentle young man,
To love God the Father was his only plan.
He lived in Assisi, Francis was his name.
The most savage of beasts he was able to tame.

The sun was his brother, his sister, the moon.
The birds woke him up with their morning tune.
He’d wait in a clearing as they gathered round,
Then he’d speak to them of the faith he had found.

He spoke to the birds, who listened with delight,
"See how God clothes you with feathers so bright."
He promised the lamb, munching clover so sweet,
"God will provide all the grass you can eat."

He thanked the trees for their comforting shade.
He blessed the flowers for the beauty they made.
He spoke to the soft wind that caressed his face,
And he thanked the sun for its warm, saving grace.

Saint Francis knew, as do you and do I,
That God gives us all that we need to get by.
God feeds our hunger and comforts our sorrow
And sends us the night to rest until tomorrow.

Thank you, God, for the blessings you give.
Thank you for love every moment we live.
Thank you for caring for the beasts and the birds
And for good Saint Francis, who lived by your words.

                                                        Francine M O’Connor

2.  Our Sustenance

In the good old days there was a little church which was famous for its annual organ concerts. The organ was an old model, with large bellows hidden from view, that were operated by a man, to pump wind into it. One year a famous organist was invited and true to his name, he kept everyone enraptured by his excellent performance.

At the intermission, the organist stepped backstage for a breath of fresh air. There he was greeted by the bellows operator, who stood by the window smoking a pipe. The man seemed very pleased with himself as he remarked to the artiste, “What a superb concert we're giving our audience tonight.”

The reputed organist, somewhat taken aback by the man’s presumptuous attitude, said in a slightly sharp tone, “How do you mean we, old fellow? I am giving the concert, as far as I know!” Then he returned to the organ to continue on the programme.

The next piece of music was the organist’s very own composition, specially prepared for the occasion. Once the audience had settled, he struck the typical pose, and with a flourish let his hands drop on the keys. There was absolutely no sound. Somewhat confused, he struck again. Still no sound. After a long, embarrassing pause, a sudden understanding dawned on him. He stood up, motioned to the audience to stay still, then rushed backstage. The bellows operator was still by the window smoking his pipe. He looked up indifferently as the organist faced him.

“What's your name, sir?” asked the organist in a conciliatory tone.

“Danny,” was the pleasant reply.

“Well Danny,” said the organist with a smile, “You were right. We are giving them a grand concert.” Danny acknowledged the recognition with wink. When the organist returned to the organ and struck the keys this time, they came to life! As the deafening applause died down after the piece, the organist went to the mike and announced: “I dedicate this composition to Danny, the invisible bellows operator who helped me play it!”

 

We live and move because of the God-given life in us. We think and feel because of the mind and heart that God has provided. We ‘create’ and ‘invent’ because of the brains God has gifted us. We achieve physical feats because of the power within us. The ‘root-cause’ of our accomplishments and successes is God. God is the Invisible Mover. He prefers to operate back-stage, pumping into each of His creatures the vital energy that is needed to be effective co-creators.

People down the ages have used the ‘brains’ and the body that God had provided them to help civilization evolve and develop in all possible ways, to explore the farthest reaches of outer space, to delve into the deepest reaches of the human soul. It is human cooperation with the divine gifts that has made these possible.

Do you appreciate the fact that you are a ‘co-creator’ with God?
Can you list the things that you have accomplished thanks to God’s Grace?
How often do you stop to reflect that practically everything you have is a “gift” from God, and from dozens, if not scores and hundreds of “invisible” brains and hands?
Are you aware of the numberless people around you who are, in a myriad different ways, helping you survive and develop?
Do you prayer for these ‘invisible others’ who are providing for you so as to make your earthly pilgrimage smooth and comfortable?

Read meditatively Psalm 8 or Rom 12.1-8.
Reflect on this verse from 1 Peter 4.10: “Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God.”
“I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.”
Jn 10.10

Samuel B. Morse, in response to a friend’s query, confided, “And may I tell you that when flattering honours came to me from America and Europe on account of my invention which bears my name, I never felt I deserved them. I had made a valuable application of electricity, not because I was superior to other men, but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone, and was pleased to reveal it to me.”

God’s gifts are also passed on to us through innumerable invisible hands. God provided the meadows for the lamb to graze, but it took a long, circuitous, route before the lamb’s gift of wool was transformed into the elegant sweater you wear to keep yourself warm.

24SELF  ENLIGHTENMENT

The sun had already set when the young monk was departing from the Master’s house. The monk was somewhat apprehensive because he had to traverse a dense forest to reach the monastery. The Master sensed that man’s fear, and so he asked, "Are you afraid of the dark?"

"Yes, I am," confessed the monk, "but I was feeling ashamed to say so."

"Don’t be afraid," said the Master, reaching out for a candle. He lighted it and handed it over to the young monk. "Take this, and go in peace."

The Master accompanied the monk to the gate, and there, in the same breath in which he said ‘goodbye’ he blew out the candle. The monk’s eyes popped out with astonishment.

"Master," said the monk after a reflective pause, "it was out of great compassion that you gave me this light for the way. Why have you blown it out?"

The Master laughed. "My candle will not be of much use to you. Be a light unto yourself."

When you were young, you held somebody else’s hand to find your way in the dark. But as you matured, you developed enough courage to walk in the dark by yourself. If you fear the dark, and ‘dark periods’ of your life – sickness, sadness, sorrow – it is because you forget that you are not alone. With the assurance that God is always present, at all times, in all places, you can weather any storm – physical, psychological, spiritual.

Is your life’s "flame" kept burning with the "oil" of faith?
Do you have courage because you feel God's power within you?
In times of darkness, is your life gloomy, or filled with an inner glow? Do you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel?

"Your word is a light to guide me and a light for my path." Ps 119.105
"I am the light of the world." Jn 9.5
Meditate on "God is Light" in 1Jn 1.5-7.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation. I will fear no one." Ps 27.1
"Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning; burning till the break of day."

Reflect on these inspiring insights from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear
Is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be Brilliant,
Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous?
Who
are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest
The Glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It is in everyone.
As we let our light shine
We unconsciously give other people permission
To do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

All the darkness of the world cannot put out the light of one candle.

In the January 23, 1999 issue of The Examiner, Fr Roland Fialho, the Vocation Promoter of the Diocese of Bombay, presented the "vocation story" of some seminarians who were about to be ordained. This is an excerpt of Bro Eric Fernandes’ account:

"I could be defined as a rebel, an Aquarian, always defying tradition, orthodoxy and the need to fit into a mould, cast by a society of stereotypes. I enjoyed creating chaos in disciplined atmosphere. Why did I do this? – A need to be my own unique person, with my own creativity and individuality. Very often my attitude was influenced by the books I read, movies I saw and behaviour I disliked.... I came to believe I had all the answers and that man was at par with God.... I did without God, gave up the Church for quite a while, explored alternate religions and dined with the devil quite often. I was ecstatic with the way things were going. I was on a ‘high’ that showed no signs of coming down...

But like every drug or stimulant, the feeling of euphoria wears off after a while and depression sets in and no matter how closely I surrounded myself with friends, I was still lonely.... As the lights went off one by one, I crouched in the darkness, afraid... I started to pray... I started working with a prayer group.... Down the road, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to be a friend, I wanted to love the unloved and reach out to those who haven't been touched yet with the amazing Grace of a most wonderful God – a God who would love you and be a friend to you – no matter what."

Perspectives

A Review

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This is a book of spiritual meditations. Spirituality is not treated in disembodied and theoretical abstraction, but in terms of those human qualities of strength, otherwise called virtues, which make for happiness in one and all. It is intended by the author to help young people to pray by reading, reflecting, checking and eliciting their spontaneous emotional response to the theme meditated upon.

 

 

bulletHe has given to the series of 52 meditations the provocative title of Happiness Manufacturers. The author surely wishes to see a new generation of happy, young people spreading joy around them. All of us want to be happy. But is happiness a gift we just wait for? Or is it also a gift we bring to and share with all around us? Both aspects are stressed in this concrete presentation.

The contents are divided into three nearly equal parts under the head of source of happiness, ingredients of happiness, and what he calls our business of happiness. Each part is sub-divided into smaller heads with 4 meditation themes under it. There is a common pattern in each meditation, which might give the impress of a boring or laborious task. But there is such endless variety of content, and rich repertoire of source material within the repeated pattern, that there is no risk of boredom in doing the prayer meditation exercises offered by this presentation.

The author expressly directs this book to those who have set themselves definite goals in life and are prepared to face the challenges on the way with confidence. Might he not be helping to change and motivate those who are otherwise disposed, but would like to grow into goal-directed and plan-oriented persons who rind their happiness therein?

Anyway, the approach is modest and appealing in its un-dogmatic tentativeness. As meant for daily or regularly spaced use and personal assimilation, this is not a read-at-a-stretch-and-throw-away book. In a few words, the exercises contained in it are and can make for a telling, touching, insightful, inspiring and arousing experience. Those who use it meditatively can find it a help to personal growth in a self-and-others-transforming happiness.
I. Jesudasan, S.J., in  JIVAN - News & Views of Jesuits in India, March 2002

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Happiness cannot be manufactured, as such. It is Life’s gift. One can only assemble a set of ‘ingredients’ in the hope that they will produce happiness. The essential ingredients such as: healthy attitudes, optimistic perspectives, a genuine heart for cordial relationships and selfless service, unconditional generosity, a sensitivity to justice and tolerance, a sound value system, an ‘interior life’ of spirituality and prayer... can be ‘manufactured’ –made by one’s own effort with help from others. People who are involved in producing these ingredients may, in a sense, be called “Happiness Manufacturers”. Priest, Nuns, Brothers.... who have devoted their entire lives to manufacture happiness –to make the Kingdom of God a reality –for themselves and for the world around, fall into this category

This book is addressed to young men and women who have committed themselves to follow in the footsteps of Christ and fulfil his mission. They may be prenovices, candidates, aspirants, postulants... or those who are yet thinking about what to do in the future. The book will help them check and cultivate their relationship with the Source of Happiness –God, and decide how prepared they are face the challenges as Happiness Manufacturers.

Happiness Manufacturers is presented in a style similar to that of the author’s well-known book At Home With God. It has stories, poems, quotes, comments and questions for reflection, and references and suggestions for prayer. An inspirational Vocation Handbook!     (Back cover)

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