The way to perfect happiness is by giving up the pursuit of happiness.
While this is not the conventional wisdom of the world, it is a staple of Christian spirituality. Ask most people you meet what makes them really happy and you’ll probably get answers like “family”, “friends”, “a satisfying career”, or some other transitory thing. Some people may even mention material goods as a source of happiness.
If you ask a saint about happiness, what answer will you get? St. Thérèse of Liseux tells us, “The only happiness here below is to live and rejoice in that which God gives us.” The answer may sound similar – God gives us family, friends, and other good things, after all – but it is very different.
Think about this: God gives sorrow along with gladness, suffering along with pleasure. But good things are not the source of happiness any more than suffering should be a source of despair. St. Thérèse tells us that abandoning ourselves to God means “to be disturbed by nothing.” Rather, we find real, lasting joy in the fact that God gives us all things to draw us closer to Himself.
St. Thérèse prayed, “My God, I choose all. I do not want to be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing — that I should keep my own will. So take it, for I choose all that You will.” This is the essence of her “Little Way” of total abandonment to God. When we abandon ourselves completely to God, as little children to their Father, then He takes care of us completely. In this, says St. Thérèse, is found our perfect happiness.
St. Paul has another way of putting it: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
God has prepared for you a vocation which can lead you to perfect happiness. Consider your discernment. Are you unreservedly open to God’s will for you – whatever it may be? Do you trust that in God’s will lies your perfect happiness, no matter what He wants to do with you? Are you willing to abandon yourself to Him so that He can lead you to real happiness?
As you read these questions you may find your heart saying, “no, I’m not willing to abandon everything to God.” If that is where you are, then pray from that place. God will always hear the prayer, “Lord, I am unwilling, but make me willing to be willing.”
A man discerning the priesthood needs to be able to abandon himself totally to God’s will for his life. This way he will be able to have interior peace and be joyful, wherever his bishop decides to assign him – both as a seminarian and as a priest.