I looked for happiness outside of God and for too long with resulting unhappiness.
In many entries in the past weeks we have focused on Eugene’s search for happiness in all the areas where it was not to be found.
How often in my past life had my wounded, tormented heart taken wings for God from whom it had turned away!
He recognizes that there had been moments in his past life where he had focused on God, but had not remained there. Perhaps during the recent months of more serious reflection and searching, as he approached Good Friday, he had also wavered in his focus. Now the impulse of the sight of the cross made it all come together in a definitive way:
… my soul took wings for its last end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly.
The sight of the cross became the jolt he needed for a definitive change of direction. His wounded, tormented heart, like a bird, changed its flight pattern to aim to fly permanently in the direction of God.
So I had looked for happiness outside of God, and outside him I found but affliction and disappointment.
Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130
Eugene echoes the famous conversion experience of Augustine. The impulse for Augustine was the voice of a child singing in a garden that led him to the Bible, and to the text of Romans 13: 13-14: “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Like Eugene, Augustine was able to begin a journey of change that he described so unforgettably in the Confessions:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Like Eugene, Augustine, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila and countless others who have narrated their conversion journeys, each of us has a narrative of searching for true happiness in our lives. It may not have been as dramatic as some of these classic narratives, and it is improbable that we will publish a book about it, BUT when God touched our hearts there was no way that we could resist changing where our focus for true happiness is.
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.” St. Augustine
My heart echo’s what both Eugene and Augustine have shared of their experiences of God. And what a gift it is that they ‘share’ who they are. These past weeks, months and years have led me to having the courage to look back and see where I have come from, look back at my own journey and realize that it has been a solid journey, with some steps backwards, but always, always with God there, God present to me. It was indeed I who was not present to God; it was I who demanded that God wait for me; that God shout and call and run after me. That has been a part of my sin. And then once found relegating my most beloved to the part of a shift-worker whose job it was to be there as I decided I needed him to be, to be ‘on call’ in case I needed him. That too has been a part of my sin. To turn to him only in struggle and sorrow so that I missed the opportunity to share the beauty and the delight of all that He has created. And I would say aloud that indeed I loved my God.
I have had even to ask for the courage, the strength, to help me look back at all that I have been and am. Was it any wonder when I first heard Eugene’s words to Henri Tempier to put himself beneath the cross, that I placed myself there to listen to the rest of his words. At the foot of the cross. Is it any wonder that I have not moved from the Cross, indeed I want to live in it’s shadow. It is where my heart belongs.
On my own – never possible, never on my own. But with others, walking with them. With my beloved Oblates of Mary Immaculate, just as I am – a very ordinary and little lay person. There will be no greatness on my part. My only greatness is that God has given me so much and so many. My only greatness is in that I am loved by my Creator.
As Frank has said there will not be any narratives or books published about most of us, BUT here we have been led to look at our own narratives, our own lives and journeys, and to recognize the awe and wonder that is a part of us. Focusing on the Cross – it is where I come to know and join my most Beloved.
In “there had been moments in his past life where he had focused on God, but had not remained there” in part I see myself. If I look into myself, in the “off” times, I think I am still there but I don’t give the praise or credit or centre to Him. However, this introspective understanding does not mean I do or want to do anything about that. It’s as if perhaps I am waiting for a jolt without the work or changing anything I do. Signed: Not quite there yet.
Grateful for your words and reflections on my birthday Frank. Focus on the cross. Our only happiness. Humbly, fearfully, gratefully, joyfully! Then the world comes alive; fully alive before our eyes…we begin to see with the eyes of God’s love on the cross.