Are We Happy Yet?

Catechesis Corner – Are We Happy Yet

Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, followed her yellow brick road to find happiness.

Charlie Brown summed up his thoughts on the topic of happiness with his statement, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Ah, elusive happiness. Just when we think we’ve achieved it, it often slips from our grasp and we find ourselves searching again. The search, attainment, and loss of happiness is one of the mysteries of our human life on earth.

Happiness is not an easy topic to write about. It is extremely complex, because what brings happiness to one person oftentimes does not bring happiness to another person. Or what brought happiness during an earlier time in someone’s life definitely does not bring happiness now, and the list goes on. A variety of approaches – biological, religious, and philosophical – have tried to define happiness and identify its sources. It remains elusive.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle assumes that all our actions aim at some end or good, that our ends form a hierarchy, and that there is one ultimate end. The highest good is that at which all actions aim; it must be an end-in-itself, self-sufficient, and attainable. As happiness alone satisfies these conditions, happiness alone is our highest good.

The following is an excerpt of yet another definition of happiness. It is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “True happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love. The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness for which he never stops searching.” Such questions as “Why am I here?” or “How can I be happy?” are about the purpose, the meaning of life. This type of question can’t be answered scientifically, because it transcends science. St. Augustine aptly describes these questions as fides quaerens intellectus – faith in search of understanding.

What is Happiness?

There are four levels of happiness.

  1. Laetus: Happiness in something. This happiness is based on something material. A new outfit… A new car… The publishing of a book… “This makes me feel good; therefore, I am happy.” It is the physical gratification of any of our five senses. We may at times feel pain and suffering, but we can see nothing good coming from it. Suffering has no meaning at this level.
  2. Felix: The happiness of one-upmanship is the result of comparing with someone else, and then coming up as being better, stronger, faster – the happiness that comes from winning a competition. Our good self-image comes from how we measure up in comparison to others. This outlook on happiness produces discouragement and a loss of self-worth when the competition is lost. As far as suffering of any kind is concerned, we avoid it at all cost.
  3. Beatitudo: This happiness comes from the Latin beatitudo, which is translated as blessedness. It is, in essence, the opposite of the previous happiness, felix. Here, we wish others well and we spend our time doing good for others as well as seeing the good in them. An example would be someone who can say, “It makes me very happy to work for Meals-On-Wheels.” As good as this third level of happiness is, it can never be considered as our ultimate happiness.
  4. Sublime Beatitudo: Sublime means to lift up or to inspire. Sublime Beatitudo involves reaching toward the fullness and perfection of happiness – The fullness of goodness, beauty, truth, and love. This encompasses the spiritual component of our being – our soul. It is hard to find the right example for this type of happiness, because it is a spiritual experience, and these are almost impossible to put into words. Words don’t even come close. At this level we learn that love encompasses suffering sometimes.

Catholics believe that the fullness of the beatific vision (seeing God, face-to-face) is something that we strive to move towards in life, but will only be granted completely after death. We get glimpses only of the sublime nature of beauty, truth and goodness at rare moments in, perhaps, the arts (music, story, film) or nature or when we are loved by or love others. These glimpses are only a foretaste of what God has prepared for us in heaven.

Are we happy yet?

Yes, we can find happiness. Only in heaven, however, when we see God face to will we be completely, totally, absolutely happy. No longer elusive, no longer slipping from our grasp, we will enjoy the Beatific Vision of God.

No, we are not, nor will we ever be, completely happy in this world.


Note: For further reading, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, “The Desire for Happiness” #1718.

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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