While visiting my parents for Father's Day, today, I was given a medium size box by my mother of all the letters and postcards I had sent her from England, from when I moved there in the first few days of January, 1985, until I came back eleven years later. She also gave me some things from when we lived in Canada, from 2000, for a few years.
Amazing. The overwhelming message of these notes, as I pursued them this afternoon, was one of happiness at being in England, and the wonderful people I had met. Of course, after the birth of STS, most of the notes have to do with Baby.
We all have "Golden Years" in our lives. I have had many. My time at Notre Dame was magical, as all grads, even trad grads, admit. My times in England again, many years later, my months in Ireland, Malta and France likewise were wonder years. But, those early days in England have to be considered some of the happiest of my life--most likely, the happiest.
I even wrote, on December 14th, 1985, that I was "so happy here...." in Norton St. Philip.
But, happiness must be seen as only part of the warp and weft of our lives. Some mothers, and I agree wholeheartedly, look back and see the "baby-days" as some of the happiest times of their lives.
In another notes, dated June 22, 1988, almost exactly 27 years ago, from Hayward's Heath, I wrote that baby "is so cute". He still is...lol.
As one grows older, the past seems farther and farther away, as if one lived in fairyland for awhile under blue skies and puffy white clouds.
However, another thing was buried under the letters, cards, and postcards in this box, a book I bought in 1975--imagine!
The title, Seeking Purity of Heart.
The knowledge of self, the knowledge of others, and the knowledge of God form the themes in this book, just like in this blog. I bought this exactly 40 years ago, and I am marvelling that God has been so faithful in my pursuit, inconsistent as it has been, of "the gift of ourselves to God" as the subtitle states.
Like so many of us, I wish I has paid attention to all the graces earlier, even though in 1975 I was in a lay community and in a celibate commitment for three years to that community. God has been very, very, very patient with me. I stand, still wrapped in the beginner stage of the purification, not yet moving into Illumination or Union, after all this time.
One line in this old book resonates with me today. "Repentance and conversion, ongoing for our whole lives, is the opposite side of the coin of falling in love with God."
God has been wooing me all of my life. The great happiness turned to sorrow, and then to a growing, slowing building joy which passes all understanding in the face of suffering, which most people, including myself, cannot understand. But, one must know one's self before absorbing the outpouring of God's love, as St. Bernard, and the compiler of this little book notes. Suffering unmasks the ego.
Only when one grows in sensitivity, compassion and humility, can one let go of the ego and truly love persons in and with God. This has been the long lesson of my life.
The key to real joy and holiness, as St. Bernard, and so many other saints have shared with us, is totally falling in love with God. From this experience, one desires only one thing-God Himself.
God is all I want, all I want to think about, and why I am willing to continue to ask for purity of heart and suffering.
Under all these letters, notes, cards, and postcards from some of the happiest days of my life, lies the real message--freedom in God, which includes knowledge of one's self, others, and finally, Him.
Poverty of heart leads to purity of heart. Purity of heart brings about a deep integrity of one's personhood. Purity of heart brings real happiness. I am not afraid to be happy, despite my sins and imperfections.
I have learned what real happiness entails-the one thing necessary--sitting at the feet of Jesus, contemplating His in love and rest.
Let me end this little journey into the past, by moving up into the present moment through the words of Pope Francis, from January of this year.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!