Would you like to be the happiest person in the world? St Alphonsus Liguori reveals the secret
Author: Carol Gachiengo 09 Aug 2021
A Reflection by Carol Gachiengo based on the book ‘Uniformity with God’s Will’ by St Alphonsus Liguori, Feast Day: August 1st
Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (Matt. 11:26 [NRSV]).
Who is the happiest person in the world that you know of or have ever heard about? Is it a little child, so innocent and trusting in the goodness of the world? Or perhaps a wealthy relative who leads a life of luxury and exciting vacations? At some time, on a particularly happy occasion, each of us may have thought, ‘I am the happiest person in the world right now.’ But wedding days, ordination days, birthdays, graduation days, falling in love days, and other happy days must come to an end some time. And as we read in Ecclesiastes:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Eccles. 3:1-4 [NRSV])
What then? Must all our joy flee away when the time to dance is gone?
St. Alphonsus de Ligouri, whose Feast Day we celebrate on August 1st, reveals to us the life-changing secret of how to become the happiest person in the world in his book Uniformity with God’s Will.
In the book, he tells the story of a poor beggar, barefooted and in rags, who had never been unhappy for a single day in his life. To the greeting, “Good day,” he responds: “Thank you, sir, for your kind wishes, but I do not recall ever having had a ‘bad’ day.”
And the secret to his perpetual happiness? He explains:
“When I have nothing to eat, I give thanks to God; when it rains or snows, I bless God’s providence; when someone insults me, drives me away, or otherwise mistreats me, I give glory to God. I said I’ve never had an unhappy day, and it’s the truth, because I am accustomed to will unreservedly what God wills. Whatever happens to me, sweet or bitter, I gladly receive from his hands as what is best for me. Hence my unvarying happiness.”
So! the happiest man in the world was not one who always had occasion to dance! He was simply one who had learned to unite his will to the will of God.
We pray it every day: “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What then, if it is God’s will that it be hot, or cold, or that I have a feast or a fast?
A popular actor is famously quoted as saying, “Money cannot buy happiness but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle.” In the wisdom of the world, this may seem remarkably accurate, for it seems that if one must cry, it is better to cry in comfort. But God always provides the better way. As in the story of the happy beggar, one can as well be happy in a Mercedes as on a bicycle. Any situation is an occasion for happiness if one’s will is united to God’s perfect will.
Is it really possible to be happy in difficult circumstances, we might wonder? St Alphonsus gives another example that illustrates how God deals with those who unite their will to His. It’s the story of a farmer who was always more successful than the other farmers in his neighborhood, bringing in a more bountiful crop each season. Asked to explain his success, he said that “he always had the kind of weather he wanted,” a surprising response since one would presume that all the farmers in the neighborhood had the exact same weather and would therefore expect to have the same bountiful crop.
But the farmer further explained, saying: “It is so because I want whatever kind of weather God wants, and because I do, he gives me the harvests I want.”
St Alphonsus explains that those who love God are always happy, because what makes God happy makes them happy too. As we read in Romans 8:28 (NRSV) “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Since God is love, and He wills only good for us, we shouldn’t be afraid to unite our will to His. It’s a great way to show our trust in God; in his “good and acceptable and perfect will” (See Rom. 12:2 [NRSV])
And that, dear reader, is the secret to becoming the happiest person in the world in all circumstances; of essentially getting a taste of heaven in advance. As St. Alphonsus puts it: “By uniting themselves to the divine will, the saints have enjoyed paradise by anticipation in this life.” May we learn, as they have, to believe in the assurance in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you…”
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, pray for us.
Voice in the Wilderness
My story has a miracle. A living, breathing one. A child. Disabled and perfect. It’...Read more
Marriage - A Biblical Perspective
Mark bolts out of the room with an air of significance about him, glancing casually across the ha...Read more
Anticipating Advent with the Joyful Mysteries
With Christmas round the corner, popular Christmas songs and carols such as 'O Come all ye faithf...Read more
King in a Manger
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And ...Read more