ENJOY YOURSELF WITH MODERATION AND PROPRIETY
Taken from THE YOUNG MAN’S GUIDE by Rev. F. L. Lasance, Imprimatured 1910.
St. Philip Neri was a peculiarly cheerful saint; he was merry in the right sense of the word. He was never gloomy or fretful; he could not bear to see melancholy faces about him. He loved to be surrounded by young people, and delighted to see them indulging in harmless mirth. If, on the contrary, he perceived that any one was in a peevish, gloomy mood, he at once asked what was the matter with him. Occasionally he gave such a one a gentle tap on the cheek, and said: "Be cheerful!"
I also say to you, my young friend, be cheerful! Who indeed ought to be merry, if not the young? Who would grudge their enjoyment of life to the lamb which gambols in the green meadow, and the young man who delights in the flowery fields of spring? Be of good cheer, be merry, enjoy yourself, but with moderation and in the right way.
If in the preceding chapters I have so earnestly exhorted you to practise self-denial and renunciation, to bear and forbear, I am nevertheless very far from wishing to see you hang your head and look peevish and morose, as if you had something bitter in your mouth. No, nothing less than that! To appear as if you were a lamb being led to the slaughter is not only unnatural, but odious.
I am sure that our Father in heaven prefers cheerful people, if only they are pious and well conducted. Sadness is the result of our fallen nature; therefore in no case does it come from heaven, or from God.
"Rejoice in the Lord always," says the Apostle. The Royal Psalmist also encourages us to gladness. Faith and piety gladden the heart by inspiring trust in the goodness and mercy of God.
"Thou, O Lord, art my protector and the lifter up of my head" (Ps. iii. 4).
"Thou hast given gladness in my heart" (Ps. iv. 7).
"Let all them be glad that hope in Thee; they shall rejoice forever, and Thou shalt dwell in them" (Ps. ix. 3).
"I will be glad and rejoice in Thee, I will sing to Thy name, O Thou Most High" (Ps. ix. 3).
"Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou shalt fill me with joys with Thy countenance, at Thy right hand are delights even to the end" (Ps. xv. ii).
"I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my refuge and my deliverer. My God is my helper and in Him will I put my trust" (Ps. xvii. 3).
"Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they have comforted me" (Ps. xxii. 4).
"Rejoice to God our Helper" (Ps. ixxx. 2).
"He will overshadow Thee with His shoulders, and under His wings thou shalt trust" (Ps. xc. 4).
But it is only the virtuous man who can be merry in the right way, cheerful in the true sense of the word. Real cheerfulness is the inseparable companion of true virtue. Happiness is found in goodness. No one has a right to be cheerful who knows that he is not in the grace of God. The slave of sin, the enemy of God, can indeed lead a merry life in the sense in which the world understands these words, but he must tremble, lament, and shudder, whenever he thinks seriously of hell, which yawns beneath his feet.
If you are truly cheerful at heart, then is your soul at peace. Trials may indeed arise, but the clouds will never be so heavy as to prevent the bright and cheering rays of confidence in God to pierce through them and lessen their gloom.
Interior cheerfulness will show itself in your exterior. Your eye will be bright, your countenance serene, your brow unruffled, your bearing firm, your step light.
Cheerfulness is recommended in many passages of Holy Writ. For instance, the Wise Man speaks thus; "Rejoice, therefore, 0 young man in thy youth, and let thy heart be in that which is good in the days of thy youth; and know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment." And if David, the royal psalmist, so frequently reminds us in his sacred poems to praise the Lord with joy, how should not the young man do this in the bloom of his youth? All the faithful should heed the admonition of St. Paul to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord a ways; again I say, rejoice." This saying applies, however, in a very particular manner, to young people.
Let them strive to keep themselves in the grace and love of God and ever to be of good cheer—"to rejoice in the Lord."
One day St. Aloysius found himself in the company with some young friends, and engaged in a game of chess. Some one suddenly asked what each member of the company would do if he knew he was to die within an hour. One said he should repair to the church and engage in prayer; another remarked that the best thing would be to go to confession. But St. Aloysius, whose conscience was completely at peace, quietly said: "I should continue the game, because I am playing in accordance with the will of God, and the wish of my superiors."
That is what it means to be cheerful and merry in the right way, if one preserves at the same time so tranquil a state of conscience that even the unexpected appearance of death would not be able to cause too great alarm and apprehension.
In this way judge the amusements, games, and merry-makings in which you like to indulge, the jokes, witticisms, conversations in which you take delight, the time and money which you sacrifice on your enjoyments. If your conscience does not reproach you, does not whisper to you that your favorite games and amusements are for you an occasion of sin, and the time and money you spend on them a piece of extravagance—then you are enjoying yourself in a proper manner. Continue to be cheerful and merry.
If ought on earth shall give you pleasure
God doth that joy bestow:
See that thou take it in due measure
Or it may turn to woe.
The human heart craves and seeks unceasingly for happiness. Many find but a small measure of happiness in this life because they lose sight of their eternal destiny—the object of their creation—which is to know God, to love Him, to serve Him, and to be happy with Him. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. xxii. 37, 39). The whole law depends on these two commandments; so Our Lord Himself assures us. The fullest measure of happiness even here on earth is attained by harmonizing one’s conduct with the commandments of God, by doing well one’s duties to God and man; for this means the possession of a peaceful conscience, a clean heart, a sinless soul; and this is essential to happiness; hence, St. Ignatius prays: "Give me, Lord, only Thy love and thy grace; with these I shall be rich enough; there is nothing more that I desire." To be in the state of grace—to have God’s love—that is essentially necessary to true happiness. "If God be for us, who is against us?" (Rom. viii. 31). The end of man’s creation is to glorify God. But in promoting God’s glory we are at the same time promoting our own happiness. Ergo, let our watch word be: "All for the greater glory of God!"
Table of Contents
Related materials available from Catholic Treasures
The Young Man's Guide
The Catholic Girl's Guide