Catholic Book Review – Happiness in this Life

Pope Francis – Happiness in this Life

For Pope Francis, the appreciation of our everyday lives is a spiritual undertaking. Joy is a divine attribute and creating joy around us an essential part of faith. Happiness in This Life delivers, in warm, engaging language accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike, key lessons instructing readers on how to find love and happiness in a chaotic world.

The book makes a good reference work for someone who might be struggling and needing an encouraging word. Even better, it could provide material for daily meditation, because it is packed with insight about the big questions in life which cannot be addressed purely intellectually.

That Pope Francis emphasizes joy will not be surprising to anyone even slightly familiar with him. The four parts of the collection each emphasize related, but distinct, aspects of the search for joy in our earthly life.

The first part treats the individual spiritual conditions for joy, with a special emphasis on the Beatitudes. Pope Francis offers insights on individual Beatitudes, explaining what purity of heart and meekness are, for example. These insights draw connections with our concrete lives in fresh and thought-provoking ways.

Pope Francis encourages us to work hard to create a coherent life, one in which we identify a grand dream or long-term goal and then organize our daily activities around that goal. The pope lauds the spiritual freedom that enables the Christian to recognize and choose the good and realize that life project. This freedom comes to us from God’s grace working in our daily lives.

Pope Francis frequently teaches that our joy is found in relationship, in going outside of ourselves and encountering Christ in the poor, suffering, and outcast.

In general, the collection shines in the chapters dedicated to families, priests and religious, and women. Pope Francis movingly speaks about the importance of a strong family life, for the family is the “school where we learn the art of living together.” The excerpts on women praise their dignity and their role in the Church, and the pope petitions for work to be done on a theology of the woman. Most importantly, he emphasizes the mercy of God, encouraging us always to seek His forgiveness, especially in confession. 

A short fourth part on prayer brings the book to a close. It includes a selection of prayers the pope has drawn attention to during his pontificate. The core ideas of his Holiness’ papacy – mercy, support for marginalized people, and diplomacy – shine through. The book is full of inspiration and guidance for personal growth.

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