Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HERE are Francis’s ten steps for a happy, healthy life. These reflective suggestions point us in a most positive pathway. As we enjoy these lovely spring days, it’s well worthwhile to put such thought into our daily lives.

1) Live and let live

The first step to peace and happiness is following the ancient advice of the Romans: Campa e fascia campà, or, “live and let live.” This advice is an echo of his now famous “Who am I to judge?” line, which was spoken in the context of his view that the Church should not interfere spiritually in the life of any person, instead embrace with love the gift of who we are.

2) Be giving of yourself to others

Some of Francis’ most well-known comments have to do with his philosophy of economics, which places a special emphasis or “preference” on the poor. Francis also thinks charity extends beyond money and includes giving one’s time to someone who needs it. No matter how it’s done, Francis advises against withdrawing into oneself, since that runs the risk of stagnation. And as he put is, “stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”

3) Move quietly

For his third bit of advice, Francis cited the novel Don Segundo Sombra, which was written by the Argentine author Ricardo Güiraldes. The book follows the journey of its protagonist, who, in his youth “was a rocky stream that ran over everything, but as he became older, he was a running river and in old age was quietly peaceful.” The advice of Francis is to be more like the older protagonist, moving calmly and slowly through life.

4) Have a healthy sense of leisure

“Consumerism has brought us many anxieties,” said Francis, who has often spoken out against what he sees as the negative effects of capitalism. Francis said that in Argentina, he’d often take mothers off guard by asking them how often they played with their children. It’s hard to make time to play and to enjoy art and literature, but “it must be done,” he said.

 5) Sunday is for family

Once a week, people should take a break from their work lives to spend time with their families. Although Francis has gone on record saying that marriage in a religious sense is limited to heterosexuals, he has also suggested that he is open to considering non-traditional forms of marriage. The concept of resting once a week from work is an important one in both Jewish and Christian theology and is actually one of the Ten Commandments.

6) Find ways to make jobs for young people

Francis noted that the rate of drug use and suicide is high among unemployed people under 25. That crisis, he said, requires us to be creative with helping them find work. For Francis, jobs don’t only give a person money – they give her dignity.

7) Respect nature

Francis has discussed environmental concerns before in homilies. And he is currently working on various writings about ecology that will “draw attention to the connection between environmental problems and poverty”. In one of his more provocative turns of phrase during his interview with Calvo, Francis had this to say about our “degradation” of the environment: “Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?”

8) Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy

One of his secrets to happiness evolves shunning negativity. Francis made headlines earlier this year for including a curious word choice in his first apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. In paragraph 85 he wrote: “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism, which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, sourpusses.”

9) Stop proselytising

Yes, you read that right. The pope’s recipe for happiness includes cooling it with the aggressive conversion tactics. “The worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses,” he said. To Francis, we shouldn’t talk with others with the sole goal of persuading them that we’re right. Each person, he said, sees the world in his or her own way, and that should be respected.

10) Work for peace

Francis hasn’t shied away from commenting on international crises. Earlier this week, while addressing the conflict in the Middle East, he put out an impassioned plea for the violence to stop: “I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please!” In the past, he’s also advocated for those displaced by conflict, and praised those countries like Sweden, who have taken steps to make things easier for refugees. Francis said that working for peace must be proactive, and never quiet: “Peace is the language we must speak.”

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By Fr Paddy Byrne
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