For the first 25 years of my Priesthood I served the Chicago Archdiocese as a full time teacher of youth. It all began at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, at the time a year round home for 850 children, ranging in age of nursery age toddlers to high school seniors: aptly named, “The City of Youth”. After a five year assignment there, I went on to 20 years as a teacher at Quigley Seminary, the training ground for future priests. I never foresaw all of this!
Immediately I chose St. John Bosco, the Apostle of Youth, as my favorite Saint. I read and re-read every biography of his life that I could find to help me in the difficult work of helping young people grow into living images of Jesus Christ. In his time in Turin, Italy, (a northern industrial city, Don (Father) Bosco took boys off the street and prepared them for life. In his daily talks to his children, Don Bosco often repeated his favorite maxim . . . “There is no happiness in sin.” I traveled to Turin a number of times!
I found myself repeating his words to the youngsters I taught! We are always seeking happiness. Each choice we make, whether we realize it or not, is based on our pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and contentment. Some examples of these choices could be, the food we buy, the work we choose to do, the man or woman we take as our spouse, the school we attend.
In life, the world, the flesh, the devil – all offer us many choices, many of them against God’s Will for our lives: dishonest money, broken vows, and addictive drugs. If we accept these forbidden things, we bring much unhappiness into our hearts. Cry out . . . “There is no happiness in sin!” I personally found this saying a powerful means of turning from these attractive and alluring choices. The true picture of my search then becomes evident.
Happiness comes from within! It’s an inside job! Happiness isn’t found in our big house, the cars in the driveway, a fat bank account or the companionship of other men and women. Happiness springs from our heart! My favorite Beatitude: “Happy are they who hunger and thirst for holiness, They shall have their fill.” What a helpful custom to say this to ourselves often!
If we are unhappy, discontented with life and despairing – refuse to blame this on someone or something that we do or do not have. Remember – Happiness comes from within! Perhaps we are making the wrong choices, putting emphasis on the wrong things. There is no happiness in sin. I always pray that my former students are using this in their search for peace!
Fr. George Mc Kenna
During our lives we all meet with some situations that cause frustration. Slow moving checkout lines, cable TV going out, and it seems, when we are in a hurry – getting stuck at a rail road crossing. Years ago, I took a new approach when presented with this last frustration.
As the slow moving freight train passed, my imagination came up with this thought: This is God’s train coming into my heart, bring the gifts I had begged Him to give me! My treasure train was now arriving!
Each car received a name: peace of heart, joy in living, love of God, forgiveness to others, hope for the future, good heath, faith in God, humility, sense of humor, love for Mary and Joseph, courage to face sufferings, purity of heart, and many other gifts of the Spirit I cherish.
“Pull out into the deep waters and lower your net for a catch”, Jesus said to His disciples at their first meeting. In the deep waters, the fisherman catches the big fish; along the shoreline, just minnows. Dare to ask the Lord for treasures of the spirit, the big fish of the spiritual life! Christ desires to enrich our inner life with no limits to His generosity.
Excitement fills our hearts on reading these words. “What price do I pay for this enrichment of my life?” First, be interested in the happenings of everyday life! At evening time, ask questions about the outcome of the day, such as, “Why did I argue with that person today, why so much friction in my family circle, does my sadness mean anything, what could I have done differently that would have brought about a more positive outcome?” Questions like these help to take the pulse of the day’s activities.
The above questioning need only take a few minutes, but its value shows up as the days go by. We begin to realize there is a better way to live, especially as we beg the Lord of deep waters to bring His gifts into our spirit.
The next time you are stopped by a train, remember my experience. Instead of being frustrated, turn it into a religious experience.
Fr. George Mc Kenna