It is hard to believe that barely 500 days of Pope Francis’ pontificate have passed, as he has made such an impact on so many lives. His words are being quoted, his messages passed through social media, and he even made the cover of Rolling Stone!
In honor of these first 500 days, “Viva”, an Argentinean publication, has published part of an interview with the Holy Father that is making the rounds through social media. It is being reprinted as “Pope Francis Shares Top Ten Secrets to Happiness”. I read it yesterday, and was not surprised to find that the ten tips are reflective of the many things he has already shared with the public, much of it related to the way the Holy Father himself lives his life.
I found myself focusing on two in particular.
The third tip is “Proceed calmly in life.” The image he uses is to “move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.” If only more people lived this way! I can only think of the craziness when I drive on the highway and encounter people who are in such a rush to get where they are going, they ignore the simplest of driving laws, like following the speed limit or talking on the phone while driving. I have witness several people driving recklessly with small children in the car! When we are in such rush to do as much as we can in a day and the result is endangering oneself, family, and others on the road, then something is wrong with the way we are thinking.
As a society we have lost what it truly means to be still. If we are still for too long, we get antsy and have to do something, so out come the cell phones. When I find myself waiting in line at the market and my hand moves to grab my phone to check facebook, I have to stop myself and remember to be still and live in the present moment. It isn’t easy; having instant communication at hand is both a blessing and a curse. But rather than always having to busy my time with something to do, I remind myself to stay calm and instead, say a prayer for someone I know who is need, or perhaps make my mental list of three good things that happened throughout the day. Keep calm and be.
The fifth tip is that Sunday should always be a holiday, family day. For most of my life I worked in parish ministry, and Sunday was always a work day for me. I was often at church as much as 8-12 hours on a Sunday, as I would greet people before and after masses, sometimes facilitate a session of RCIA or Confirmation, or other such tasks. And although it was technically a work day, I look back and realize it was also a family day; I had the time and opportunity to greet and talk with my faith community. Sometimes, it was the only chance I had to see the people of my parish! We would talk, sometimes sit down and have coffee, or a quick breakfast. I was available to help with questions or listen to problems; it became a time of connecting for me.
My first Sunday alone in Fresno, I went to mass at Holy Spirit Church, walked to the parking lot and asked myself, “Now what?” I realized that there was a social aspect to my Sunday work day that would now be missing and I could fill it instead with a day of rest for myself. So I began the practice of Sunday brunch (which I have always loved but rarely had time to do!), or of planning a specific project for Sunday. I also have time to shop for food and prepare my lunches for the week, something I have never done! Most of all, if I have the time, I can drive to spend weekend with my family or friends and attend Mass with them. Sunday has now become a holiday for me, spent leisurely and doing things I enjoy.
There are eight more tips for happiness in this article, and I invite you to read them and reflect on how many of them you are already doing! These ten items give us a true way to measure happiness in our lives, and things that we can begin to teach our young ones.
Here is just one of the many links exploring the article: