43 – The formula for happiness: live and let live

The principle end of human existence is happiness. Even without Aristotle’s affirmation of this principle, no one would ever question that there are few things in this life as universal as the natural desire for happiness, which surges forth from the human heart: there is no one who does not desire happiness. The question is where to find it… the options are many and varied. Within our secularized ‒ and unhappy ‒ society, there is certainly no lack of ‘self-help’ manuals which present diverse alternatives, based either on an indifferent detachment imbued with agnostic ethics or on a dubious philanthropy without God.

On the contrary, since the dawn of Christianity, the Fathers of the Church, and of course, the Magisterium, have pointed out the advantages of transcending the legitimate though transitory joys of this valley of tears, in order to seek the eternal joys ‘where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Mt 6:20). However… have things changed recently?



Quote A
Counsels given by Pope Francis in his ‘decalogue for happiness’ published by Pablo Calvo, in his interview with the Pontiff for the Argentinean magazine, Viva (a supplement of the newspaper El Clarín) to mark the first 500 days of the pontificate of Pope Francis. “What is the formula for happiness?” asked the journalist, and explains: “He did not avoid the question: the Argentine Pope in his prompt response, and throughout the rest of the conversation, has the courage to develop a recipe for happiness. The following are ten ingredients of this potion which seems unattainable, but which Francis invites us to try.”

  1. Live and let live. “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,’ Pope Francis said. They say: ‘Campa e lascia campà’ (live and let live). That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
  2. Give yourself tirelessly to others. “If one gets tired, one runs the risk of being egoistic, and stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
  3. Walk softly. “In ‘Don Segundo Sombra’ there is a very beautiful thing, a man who looks back on his life, the main character. He says that in youth he was a rocky stream that carried everything ahead; as an adult, he was a running river and that in old age, he felt movement, but it was slowed down. I would use this image of the poet and novelist Ricardo Güiraldes, the last adjective, calmed down. The ability to move with kindness and humility, calmness of life. Elderly people have this wisdom; they are the memory of a people. And a people that doesn’t take care of its elderly has no future.”
  4. Play with your children: “Consumerism has led to a frenzy, and the loss of the healthy culture of relaxation, reading, enjoying art. Now I don’t often hear confessions, but when I was in Buenos Aires I used to hear a lot, and when a young mother came I would ask: ‘How many children do you have? Do you play with your children?’ It was an unexpected question, but I would say to them that playing with their children is important for a healthy culture. It is difficult. The parents go to work early and come back when the children are asleep. It is hard. But it must be done.”
  5. Spend Sundays with family: “The other day, in Campobasso, I went to a meeting between the university world and the world of manual workers. And all complained that they couldn’t work on Sunday. Sunday is for the family.”
  6. Help young people to find work: “It is important to be creative with young people. If they lack opportunities, they fall into drugs. And the number of suicides among unemployed youths is very high. The other day I read, but I don’t count this as a scientific fact, that there are 75 million young people under the age of 25 unemployed, It is not enough to give them food, there has to be a one-year course to learn to be a plumber, an electricist, a tailor. That gives them the dignity of being the bread-winners.”
  7. Care for nature: “We have to take care of creation and we are not doing so. This is one of the greatest challenges we have.”
  8. Quickly forget negative experiences: “The necessity to speak badly of others indicates poor self-esteem, it is to say: ‘I feel so low, that instead of raising myself up, I put others down.’ To quickly forget what is negative is healthy.”
  9. Respect those who think differently: “We can question others with our testimony, so both may progress in this communication. But the worst thing that can happen is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I dialogue with you to convince you.’ No. Each person should dialogue from within his own identity. The Church grows through attraction, not through proselytism.”
  10. Actively strive for peace.  “We are living in a time of much war. In Africa, there seem to be tribal wars, but they are much more than that. War destroys. And we must cry out for peace. Peace sometimes gives the idea of stillness, but it is never stillness. It is always an active peace.” (Interview with Pablo Calvo, July 27, 2014 – English summaries of the same: here, here, and here)


Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I- No Creature can Confer Happiness – It is Found only in God
II – Which Path Leads to Happiness?

I- No Creature may Grant us the Happiness that is Found only in God

John Paul II

The temptation of reducing Christianity to a pseudo-science of well-being

The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world a ‘gradual secularization of salvation’ has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension. We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind, and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation. (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 11, December 7, 1990)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Only the universal good can satisfy the human will

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Ps. 102:5: ‘Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.’ Therefore God alone constitutes man’s happiness. (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II, q. 2, a. 8)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

The supreme good of humanity is God, and nothing else

We all certainly desire to live happily; and there is no human being but assents to this statement almost before it is made. […] And no one can be happy who does not enjoy what is man’s chief good, nor is there any one who enjoys this who is not happy.  We must then have at hand our chief good, if we think of living happily. […] God then remains, in following after whom we live well, and in reaching whom we live both well and happily. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. De moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum, Book.1, no. 4-5,10)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

True happiness is not found in human achievements

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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1723)

Only in God will man will find the happiness that he never stops searching for

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 he never stops searching for. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 27)

John Paul II

True happiness is a gift of the Holy Spirit

If a Christian ‘saddens’ the Holy Spirit, inhabiting his soul, he certainly cannot hope to possess true happiness, which comes from Him: ‘Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…’ (Gal 5:22). Only the Holy Spirit gives the profound, full and lasting happiness, to which every human heart aspires. Man is a being made for happiness, not sadness. […] True happiness is a gift of the Holy Spirit. (John Paul II, General audience, no. 2, June 19, 1991)

Benedict XVI

Jesus is the happiness we seek

Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! […] I repeat today what I said at the beginning of my Pontificate: ‘If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation’ (Homily at the Mass of Inauguration, 24 April, 2005). Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world. (Benedict XVI. Address of welcoming the young people, August 18, 2005)

The example of Saint Francis: only the Infinite can fill the human heart

‘Francis was always happy and generous, dedicated to play and song, roaming through the town of Assisi day and night with friends like him, spend-thrifts, dissipating all that they could have or earn on lunches and other things’ (3 LTC 1, 2). Of how many of today’s youth could something similar be said? […] In that way of living there was the desire for happiness that dwells in every human heart. But could that life bring true joy? Francis certainly did not find it. You yourselves, dear young people, can verify this beginning with your experience. The truth is that finite things can give only a faint idea of joy, but only the Infinite can fill the heart.  (Benedict XVI, Speech, Meeting with youth in Assisi, June 17, 2007)

Bishops have the duty to point out the world’s inability to bring true joy

Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure ‘what is new and what is old’(Mt 13:52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. St. Augustine, Confessions, 1:1). (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Ireland on their Ad limina Visit, 28 October, 2006)

Catechism of Trent

In adherence to God is true happiness found

It is unquestionably a chief duty of the pastor to use the utmost diligence to excite the faithful to a love of the infinite goodness of God towards us, that, burning with a sort of divine ardor, they may be powerfully attracted to the Supreme and All­ Perfect Good, to adhere to which is true and solid happiness, as is fully experienced by him who can say with the Prophet: What have I in heaven? And besides thee what do I desire upon earth? (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Introduction, p. 31)

Saint Basil the Great

The hope of eternal goods fills our soul with joy

They should be considered happy those who, in view of the hope of the future life, bear with the present, thus exchanging present goods for the eternal. […] Thus, risen above present things, you will apply your mind to the hope of eternal goods, whose only knowledge is capable of filling our soul with joy, and introducing the happiness of the angels into our hearts. (Saint Basil the Great. Homily De Gratiarum Actione, no. 3,7: PG 31, 223,237-238)

II – Which is the Path to Happiness?

 Sacred Scripture

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods! (Ps 40:4)

Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, o Lord, and whom thou dost teach out of thy law (Ps 94:12)

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house; and his righteousness endures for ever. (Ps 112:1-3)

Blessed is the man who does not blunder with his lips and need not suffer grief for sin. Blessed is he whose heart does not condemn him, and who has not given up his hope. (Sir 14:1-2)

But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. (Jas 1:25)

Benedict XVI

The secret of happiness consists in putting God in first place

God loves us: this is the source of true joy. Even if one has all he or she wants, one can sometimes be unhappy; on the other hand, one can be deprived of everything, even freedom or health, and be in peace and joy if God is in his or her heart. Thus, the secret is this: God must always have first place in our life. (Benedict XVI. Speech during the visit to Rome’s prison for minors Casal del Marmo, March 18, 2007)

The Eucharist is the source of Christian joy

Where is the source of Christian joy to be found if not in the Eucharist, which Christ left us as spiritual Food while we are pilgrims on this earth? The Eucharist nurtures in believers of every epoch that deep joy which makes us one with love and peace and originates from communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, March 18, 2007)

True joy comes from Christ’s Cross

True joy is something different from pleasure; joy grows and continues to mature in suffering, in communion with the Cross of Christ. It is here alone that the true joy of faith is born. (Benedict XVI. Address to the priests of the Diocese of Aosta, 25, July 2005)

Observing the Commandments is the path to happiness

God wants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. (Benedict XVI. Message for the Twenty-Seventh World Youth Day, no. 5, March 15, 2012)

Blessed are they who obey the word of God

This close relationship between God’s word and joy is evident in the Mother of God. Let us recall the words of Saint Elizabeth: ‘Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord’ (Lk 1:45). Mary is blessed because she has faith, because she believed, and in this faith she received the Word of God into her womb in order to give him to the world. The joy born of the Word can now expand to all those who, by faith, let themselves be changed by God’s word. The Gospel of Luke presents this mystery of hearing and joy in two texts. Jesus says: ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it’ (Lk 8:21). And in reply to a woman from the crowd who blesses the womb that bore him and the breasts that nursed him, Jesus reveals the secret of true joy: ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ (Lk 11:28). (Benedict XVI. Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, no. 124, September 30, 2010)

John Paul II

True happiness does not exist outside of friendship with God

True happiness includes the justice of the kingdom of God, which Saint Paul affirmed is ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17). This is the evangelical justice, which consists in conformity to the will of God, in the obedience to his laws and in a personal friendship with Him. Outside of this friendship, true happiness does not exist. […] Sin is a source of sadness, because it is a deviation and almost a separation of the soul from the true order of God, who gives  consistency  to life. The Holy Spirit, who works in man the new justice in charity, eliminates sadness and transmits happiness: that happiness which we see blossoming within the Gospel. (John Paul II, General audience, no. 3, June 19, 1991)

Happiness is an inevitable consequence of being closer to God

Each time we come together for the Eucharist, we are strengthened in sanctity and renewed in happiness. Happiness and sanctity, in fact, are inevitable consequences of drawing closer to God. When we nourish ourselves with the living bread that came down from heaven, we grow in likeness to our resurrected Savior, who is the source of our happiness, a ‘great joy that will be for all the people’ (Lk 2:10). (John Paul II, Homily in the National Stadium of Karachi – Pakistan, no. 8, February 16, 1981)

The Ten Commandments are a sure path toward happiness

In fact, the Lord indicated a secure path for achieving happiness in the moral law, an expression of his creating and salvific will, that is in the Ten Commandments, engraved in each person’s conscience, manifested historically to the Hebrew people and perfected by the gospel message. […] Saint John adverts again, in his letter, that the love of God, font and guarantee of true happiness, is not a vague or sentimental, but rather, concrete and dedicated: ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments’ (1 Jn 5:3). One who consciously and deliberately transgresses the law of God, meets up inevitably with unhappiness. But, Christians possess, on the contrary, the secret of happiness. (John Paul II, Homily, Church of Our Lady of the Lake, no. 2, September 2, 1979)

Happiness comes from grace, God’s pardon and the hope of eternal joy…

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, bliss. […] 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. (John Paul II, Address to a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Naples, Italy, 24 March, 1979)

…from faith lived in prayer and reception of the sacraments...

Carry, above all, Christian happiness in your heart: happiness which stems from a serenely accepted faith, intensely deepened by means of personal meditation and study of the Word of God and of the teaching of the Church; dynamically lived in union with God in Christ, in prayer and the constant reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation; in the assimilation of the gospel message, at times difficult for our weak human nature, which is not always in line with the exciting but  also challenging demands of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, or the ‘Beatitudes’ ‘Noli gaudere in saeculo — Saint Augustine tells us —: gaude in Christo, gaude in verbo eius, gaude in lege eius…’ (Enarr. in Ps. 93, 24-: PL 37, 1212-). (John Paul II, Speech to young people of the Communion and Liberation Movement, no. 1, March 16, 1980)

…from the Sunday Eucharist and peace of conscience

Let us find again the joy that participation in the Eucharist gives us. Let Sunday Mass become for us the climax of every week. Let us find again the joy that comes from repentance, from conversion, from this splendid sacrament of reconciliation with God, which Christ set up to re-establish peace in man’s conscience. (John Paul II, Angelus, no. 3, March 25, 1979)

Paul VI

True joy is found in seeking God and turning away from sin

It is therefore by becoming more present to God, by turning away from sin, that man can truly enter into spiritual joy. Without doubt ‘flesh and blood’ (Mt 16:17) are incapable of this. But Revelation can open up this possibility and grace can bring about this return. Our intention is precisely to invite you to the sources of Christian joy. […] In essence, Christian joy is the spiritual sharing in the unfathomable joy, both divine and human, which is in the heart of Jesus Christ glorified. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, no. I-II, May 9, 1975)

True happiness is only possible within the Church

A common joy, truly supernatural, a gift of the Spirit of unity and love, which is not possible in truth except where the preaching of the faith is accepted in its entirety, according to the apostolic norm. […] The joy of being Christian, of being united with the Church, of being ‘in Christ,’ and in the state of grace with God, is truly able to fill the human heart. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, no. VII/ Conclusion, May 9, 1975)


He who seeks true joy must flee from sin

He who seeks the joys of the Lord Jesus and his Mother, must walk uprightly along the good path, without vacillations or compromises; flee from sin, origin of all unhappiness and inequity, even material ones; and work toward the good: that its, practice charity, the works of mercy, justice, honesty – and all of this within the splendorous light of the Eucharist, which should suavely permeate all minds and wills. Only in this way does man possess interior happiness, the true peace. (John XXIII, Radio Message to the City of Turin, March 27, 1960)

Sanctity is a font of happiness

This is all: know how to sanctify oneself and sacrifice oneself with Christ and for love of Christ. All the centuries are open to the spray of sanctity, which alone is the font of true happiness. (John XXIII, Homily for the Beatification of Father Inocencio Berzo, November 12, 1961)

Pius XII

Happiness is found in God and in the practice of His teachings

Today the world navigates adrift, perhaps more than ever, behind the false indications of happiness. And happiness is only found in God and in the practice of His divine teachings. (Pius XII. Radio Message to the Clergy and Argentinian, February 1, 1948)

Catechism of Saint Pius X

Our greatest good is a pure conscience

A Christian can be content in a state of poverty by reflecting that our greatest good is a pure and peaceful conscience; that our true home is heaven; and that Jesus Christ made Himself poor for love of us and has promised a special reward to those who bear poverty patiently. (Catechism of Saint Pius X, Tenth Commandment, q.4)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

If you wish to be happy, be undefiled

From its commencement, dearly beloved, does this great Psalm exhort us unto bliss, which there is no one who desires not […] And therefore this is the lesson which he teaches, who says, ‘Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord’ (Ps 118:1). As much as to say, I know what you wish, you are seeking bliss: if then you would be blessed, be undefiled. For the former all desire, the latter fear: yet without it what all wish cannot be attained. But where will any one be undefiled, save in the way? In what way, save in the Law of the Lord? (Saint Augustine of Hippo, Commentary on Psalm 118, no. 1 (119))

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