It is said that once St. Benedict Joseph Labre (the beggar saint who died in Rome in 1783) when he was begging at the streets in Rome, some children seeing him, his emaciated face and his ragged dresses, said something about sadness and disgrace. And St. Benedict listened to them and he said to them: “If you would know my happiness and joy!”
On the other hand we have Anatole France (who was a French non-believer poet, journalist, and successful novelist with several best-sellers), due to his fame and successful life everyone thought that he was very happy, however he wrote: “if you would know how to read my soul, you would be scared, because there is no creature more disgraced than me in the whole world. Everyone thinks that I am happy when I have been happy neither one day nor an hour.”
What was the difference between them? The Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If one really believes in the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, that faith (a living faith) must give him true happiness. If one does not really believe in the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, which is the cause of his unhappiness, it does not matter how successfulness or richness or whatever he is.
“Christian joy is a reality that is not easy to describe, because it is spiritual and also belongs to the mystery. He who really believes that Jesus is the Word Incarnate, the Redeemer of man, cannot but feel within himself a sense of immense joy, which is consolation, peace, abandonment, resignation, and bliss. The Psalmist said: O taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps 33, 9). And the French philosopher and scientist, Blaise Pascal, on the famous night of his conversion wrote in the Testament, ‘Joy! Joy! Tears of joy!’. Do not extinguish this joy which springs from faith in Christ, the crucified and risen Christ! Bear witness to your joy! Educate to enjoyment of this joy!” (Address of his holiness John Paul II to a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Naples, 03/24/1979).
But this happiness is not something “magical”. We must learn to discover it, we must educate ourselves to the enjoyment of this joy. But we must also be careful not to confuse this happiness with the worldly happiness. The French poet probably had a lot of moments of worldly happiness or fake happiness and St. Benedict Joseph Labre probably had a few of those moments, however only the latter had real happiness.
What is this happiness? As Saint John Paul II says: “It is the joy of interior light on the meaning of life and history; it is the joy of God’s presence in the soul, by means of ‘grace’; it is the joy of God’s forgiveness, by means of his priests, when one has, unfortunately, offended his infinite love, and, having repented, returns to his Father’s arms; it is the joy of the expectation of eternal happiness, as a result of which life is understood as an “exodus”, a pilgrimage, committed though we are in the affairs of the world.” (id.).