| By Father Justin Ward, S.T.L.

Remember, the Goal Is to Rejoice!

Making an Effort to See God’s Beauty Everywhere in Our Lives

Everything about us, every aspect of ourselves has been designed to serve and glorify God. And that’s especially true of our souls, which we pray will one day be in Heaven! But what are we doing to prepare ourselves for Heaven? If we are living anxiously, resentfully, frenetically, irritably, enviously, graspingly — if that’s our default mode — then we’re molding ourselves to be less and less congruent with what we hope is to come in Heaven. Whereas, if our more normal state is one of peaceful joy in the goodness of God and all He has done, then we’re “makin’ the most” of our time, getting ready to live in the presence of the Lord.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” (Phil 4:4) How do you rejoice in the Lord always? How do you develop a habitual attitude of joy?

The secret is beauty. St. Thomas Aquinas famously defined beauty as that which delights when it is seen. But to “delight” constantly, you must train yourself — you must discipline yourself — to see beauty everywhere. It’s true that part of that discipline means taking time to appreciate those things which are obviously beautiful, but you can’t stop there. I’m sure we have all met someone who may be able to enjoy high culture but can’t seem to cope with ordinary life. We don’t want to be like that! If we find ourselves with that perspective, then we probably are not yet fully grasping the immense beauty that is surrounding us always, even amidst trials and difficulties.

Remember, the goal is to rejoice always! The goal is to see beauty everywhere.

And seeing beauty everywhere requires a certain degree of discipline and creativity. Admittedly, it demands sustained attention and a firm resolve in finding new areas of order while at prayer, at work, or in the home. This is precisely why the Church has so much to say about the practical aspects of how we worship as Catholics. With her insistence of adherence to liturgical law, she is trying to do all she can to equip us to see the realities of our faith through a lens of beauty. In ordering things properly, the most beautiful truths have a way of emerging with a capacity which speaks to our hearts when words alone simply fall short. What a gift we have when we come to Holy Mass! And what a tool we have for our preparation for Heaven every time the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated!

As human persons, our task is to rejoice in everything God is and everything that He has done — in the world, in salvation history, and in our personal circumstances. To rejoice at all times is not mere optimism, positive thinking, or superficial fakeness. Rather, it is simply the proper response to the created beauty all around us and to the Uncreated Beauty that awaits us in Heaven.

Father Justin Ward, S.T.L. is the Diocese of Birmingham’s Vicar for Sacred Liturgy and Episcopal Master of Ceremonies. He holds a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Illinois.