The Eternal Quest for Happiness
If you ask any young person today what the secret of happiness is, the answers you'll get are probably very predictable:
Young girls will tell you being popular is the number one priority.
Young boys will tell you that having a million dollars would not hurt.
Young adult women want to be beautiful and successful.
Young adult men want both money (lots of it) and success (fast, so they can enjoy it while they're still young).
In the colorful jargon of my teenage students, I can tell you all: "Been there, tried it, it doesn't work. =)
Seven years ago I had it all. I was young and beautiful. Strangers would stop me on the street to give me flowers, photographers would ask me to model for them. I worked in theater plays, sang semi-professionally, and was well known in my hometown by almost everyone. I even did a TV show!
I had money, lots of it, to do as I pleased, because my husband's salary paid the rent and fed our daughter, so my salary was just "play money." And play I did; I figured I had earned the right to do with it whatever I chose, since I worked so hard for it.
I dressed in the latest fashion, my hair was styled by one of the best, my hands looked like they had never touched a dirty dish.
But I was an empty shell...
Young, vibrant people gravitated toward me; my house was never empty, day or night.
But I was alone...
I remember a song that was popular in my college days, one that probably best describes the state of my soul in those days when I kept "searching for love in all the wrong places" and with all the wrong people, I might add...
All that has changed now. I am no longer the young beautiful woman I was then. Pregnancy and more than quite a few gray hairs have taken care of all that. (Happens to everyone sooner or later, you know =) But I can tell you I am happier now than I ever remember being.
You see, in my eternal quest for love and happiness I found out that they are not to be found in the fountain of youth, or in worldly riches, or in fame. The answer to my questions had been right in front of my nose all those years, but I my eyes never saw... I never listened... I never knew.
I grew up in the Catholic Church. As soon as I was born, my mother took me to the convent, where the Sisters placed me on the altar and consecrated me to Our Blessed Mother. Thirteen years of my life were spent within a few feet of that same chapel, because the convent was right inside the grounds of the Catholic School I grew up in. But in those days, church was more a habit or a tradition to me; I went through all the motions, but never felt a thing. Or maybe I should not say never, because looking back I do remember a few times in my life, when I was quiet for long enough, and the voice of My Guardian Angel came through for just a few moments... But I did not listen, or if I did, it was only for a second, because I was never still for longer than that.
In my young adult years I became engaged to a man who was also a cradle Catholic, but did not go to church, and I ended up not going to church either; oh, he came along once or twice, but Sundays were his only day off work, and he did not want to get up early, or miss any of the fun... My arguments were not very convincing, probably because I did not believe in them myself.
Our marriage was a disaster from day one - no matter how hard I worked to make it better, it got progressively worse and worse until I just gave up and, for many years, we shared a house but lived separate lives. Even our beautiful daughter was not able to bring us together; we both loved her dearly, but doing anything as a family was a strenuous experience for both of us. It was not until many years later, when I put my family in the loving hands of Our Blessed Mother that our marriage became what it should have been in the first place.
Because we both felt so empty inside, we went on a neverending search for something that would give our lives some meaning. I studied every kind of religion you can think of, Christian and . I studied the sciences, the New Age philosophy; read every book I could manage to get my hands on about anything that I though would give me the answers I needed. Not one of them had the answers of course...
My return to the Church was rather dramatic, and I will not go into details here, but I will tell you that, without any doubt, it must have been carefully orchestrated in Heaven for many years.
It started with an invitation to sing with a music ministry in my hometown. Going to church was not something that I found especially appealing at the time, but music, music was the only thing where I found some joy. So I agreed.
Then, a series of unbelievable coincidences took me on a journey that started at the top of a Mountain where Our Blessed Mother in Heaven took me by the hand, and ended with the awesome experience of finding myself face to face with My Lord, Jesus Christ. An encounter that would bring me both the most incredible joy I've ever experienced and the deepest pain you could ever imagine. Because when I felt that current of pure love flowing towards me I could not help but think of all the years I'd foolishly spent with my back turned to Him, and my hearing dulled by the incessant noise, and my eyes clouded by sin.
The journey was not easy, my entire lifestyle had to be revised and redesigned. There were so many things I had to get rid of, so much to learn! But Mama María led me by the hand every step of the way, and hundreds, maybe thousands of rosaries later I finally began to see the truth.
Now, when He comes to me every Sunday in the Eucharist, His Spirit fills me with a love so perfect, so big, that I know I will never again thirst for love. I stop to talk to Him for a while, and then I go up with the choir, and the music takes a whole new meaning, because I sing for Him and Him alone, offering every word, every note as a token of my love. I will never hear any applause of stand before a spotlight again, but His love brings me unending happiness, and His light is the brightest light of all.
The same church where I have been singing in for so many years now is a whole different place. If I ever had to argue with someone from another faith about being Catholic versus going to any other Christian church, you would probably not hear me reciting Bible passages or studying apologetics to prove the True Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I would just say I know He is there, without a shadow of a doubt I know - no scientific proof needed, no Polaroid photos required, I just know, in my heart, I finally know.
And the journey does not end here. It has just started, I know, but like the prodigal son who learned to appreciate all that he had only after he lost it, I too have found my way back Home.
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