Reflection on #4, “The Way” (St. Maximilian’s Unpublished Writings #1270)
Let us explore in a daily practical way the path that St. Maximilian points to that leads to this elusive goal of perfect happiness. Basically, each one of us wants happiness that will never end. Can this kind of happiness be found in our earthly life? We experience times of joy and happiness, but never in its purity that is endless. Shadows of sorrow, disappointments, trials, and suffering tend to mingle with the desire to retain the happiness we find in whatever form- pleasures of life, love of the family, good friendships, joyful fulfillment of our goals, talents, gifts, etc. Something happens that casts a shadow in some way or other on the transient happiness we find in this life. There is no guarantee that the happiness we find on earth will last forever although we crave it.
The problem is not in the desire for everlasting happiness (as depicted in fairy tales), but rather the quest to find such unlimited happiness in a world where things change and everything passes in time. Such unending happiness we long for points beyond the present to an eternal realm that transcends time and space. This desire is good since it beckons us on in the search for everlasting happiness.
But where is the path that leads to this elusive goal of everlasting happiness that is only dimly perceived in our mortal frame? St. Maximilian notes that “At various times in human existence a number of people, often wise and devout, have come up with ways to achieve human happiness. Yet taking all their pronouncements together, we see that they are really inconsistent.” The paths are as varied as the ones who have found them, so where is the common thread that draws one to this spring of eternal happiness? If the pathway differs for the individual, where can it be found? What is the common denominator and consistent element in this quest? The path these people found is unique to their nature, personality, gifts, and circumstances. If it is unique to the person, what is the underlying consistent factor?
The consistency is found in a transcendental factor that comes from above and is perfectly suited to each person. It is the cross that comes from the Lord of creation but is found in the daily circumstances of our life. Not everyone finds it, nor does everyone who does find it accept it as the path to everlasting happiness. Those who embrace it, walk with it daily and find a deeper dimension of their trials, sufferings, and joys that escape our awareness on the superficial level. They are challenges that offer joyful victories to the “wise and devout” rather than despair. The consistency is found in the way the cross is perceived and carried in the spirit of love. Although the cross is unique to each person, it is the way to eternal happiness and ultimate fulfillment in union with the Lord of all creation.
By Annette Leib, President of M.I. Canada