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Immaculate Conception Parish Picnic

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Mary, Queen of Peace clothing and furniture drive

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Centennial Concert

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Speaker Jason Evert - for teens and parents

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Mass at St. Patrick (Armagh) Old Rock Church

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Holy Hour for priestly and religious vocations

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Joyful & Alive Conversation

Tuesday, 06/07/2022 at 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

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Gabriel's Retreat-A Retreat for those Expecting the Unexpected

Friday, 06/10/2022 at 6:00 PM -
Sunday, 06/12/2022 at 6:00 PM

GROWING UP CATHOLIC | St. Francis and the secret to joy

St. Francis teaches that joy is directly created by love of God

There’s a story about St. Francis of Assisi and how, one day on a walk with Brother Leo, he explained the concept of perfect joy. It was a cold winter day, and the monks were shivering in their thin brown robes. Francis said that if they manage to become the holiest of all monks, it still wouldn’t be perfect joy. They walked through the cold a bit more and Francis said that if they become great miracle-workers, it still wouldn’t be perfect joy. They walked on. Francis elaborated that, even if they become the wisest of all men and admired prophets, this also wouldn’t be perfect joy.

At this point, Brother Leo had enough. He asked, “Teach me what is perfect joy.”

The answer Francis provided is unexpected. He said, “If, when we shall arrive … all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger … and the porter comes out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors … if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for Him … here, finally, is perfect joy.”

At this time of year, I struggle with joy, and I’m right there with Brother Leo, petulantly demanding to be let in on the secret of where to find it. Christmas cheer is running low, I’ve eaten all the cookies, drank all the egg nog, and now am left only with cold, dark days. To keep depression from setting in, I go on long, freezing runs outside just to get a little sun on my skin and release calming hormones into my bloodstream. Sometimes I enjoy those runs. Often, though, I’m miserably cold and wonder why I even bother.

It’s easy to be joyful at Christmastime. But what about the more difficult, less festive parts of our lives? The drudgery of work, the little annoyances of raising a family, feeling spiritually stuck?

I think St. Francis is right that even suffering is joyful when it’s an act of love. I’ve always been skeptical of the explanation that joy is an emotion or spiritual attitude that helps us be happy even when life is burdensome. Joy is more than the ironclad self-discipline to ignore external circumstances.

St. Francis teaches that joy is directly created by love of God. He desires to think about God, be near God, talk about God. If he imitates Christ in His suffering, all the better.

Joy is all about love. We don’t achieve it through physical or spiritual blessing. We don’t seek it as a way to detach from suffering or difficulties. We find joy in suffering. We’re actually capable of being joyful in any and all circumstances because we can always — absolutely always — make the decision to act with love.

Father Rennier is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.

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