The Self-Sacrificial Nature of Being Catholic

People have told me before that I’m one of the happiest kids they know:  I get excited easily and love to share that excitement with others; to them, I just seem to have a profound joy for life.

Which is weird because, to be honest, I don’t think I focus on being happy at all.  What defines me, I think, is that I really love to make other people happy.  Not in the cheap sense.  I don’t lie, for example, to make people feel good about themselves, and I won’t go out of my way to bring a temporary happiness or, worse, an illusion of happiness.

But I like to help others find meaning in life.  I don’t mean this in a cocky or pretentious way; I’m not saying I have divine knowledge or inspiration.  But I do like to make people feel special…I like playing a part in helping them find their place in the world.  Some of the most meaningful moments for me is when I talk to friends about finding direction — whether it be deciding a major, or how to approach relationships, or how to live life to the benefit of others.  Equally as meaningful for me, though, is simply having a short conversation with someone I don’t know well — showing him or her that I care.

I love to help people realize that they have a place in the world, that there’s a higher purpose in life, and that God’s always there for them.  Because ultimately, I think that’s what makes people happy.  And when I focus on other people’s happiness, I often find that I myself am happy.

I’m writing this post now because I’ve been focusing a lot on my own happiness recently.  I keep asking myself, “What do I want?”  and “What can I do to get what I want?”  But in doing so, I find myself dissatisfied, uncomfortable, and, yes, unhappy.  And it makes me feel wholly out of character.  When I’m focusing on me, I am no longer me.

All this stems from my Catholic values.  The nature of being Catholic, I think, is a willingness to give oneself to others.  The Catholic mission is dedicating yourself to God and bringing God to those around you.  When we focus on that — when we focus on bringing to others the Happiness that is God — we ourselves will be happy.  Because we will be doing what God made us to do.

“I think you can’t really be happy, if you are just trying to be happy. The key to happiness is to dedicate yourself to something greater than yourself, and to find a cause that is worthy of all your devotion.” (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ)

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