Cardinal Schönborn Sees Christianity as a Call to Happiness

Addresses Communion and Liberation Event in Italy

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 29, 2003 ( For Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Christianity and happiness should be synonymous, so he invites men and women to rediscover the grandeur of “little happinesses.”

He told of a phrase of his one-time parish priest — “We have been created to be happy” — which, along with the example of the priest’s life, convinced the future archbishop of Vienna of his vocation.

The Austrian cardinal revealed that story from his past as he began his reflection on the topic “Christian Vocation: Call to Happiness.” He addressed more than 2,000 participants at the weeklong “Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples,” organized by the Communion and Liberation movement.

“The desire for happiness is given to us by the Creator and it is written in the heart of every man. It represents an end to which the Creator has destined us,” the cardinal explained.

For many “the search for happiness is deceptive and is manifested in such things as drugs, fame, success or sex,” he said. “All are actions that can give momentary pleasure and satisfaction, but they do not guarantee happiness.”

Instead, “the ‘little happiness’ — little gestures that give a bit of light to daily life — is the way to come closer to the great happiness,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “One depends on the other, they belong to one another.”

Yet, “little happinesses” have been unjustly condemned by ideologues and philosophers, he added. “This disdain for little happinesses is, in fact, profoundly inhuman and finds tragic applications in history where the political power arrogates to itself the task of creating the great happinesses on earth.”

In fact, “whoever is unable to appreciate little joys, mentioned even in the biblical book of Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes], will not be aware of the great happinesses either,” he noted.

“The real search for happiness in the Christian sense is translated in the magisterium of the Catholic Church in topics such as peace, the defense of life, respect for human rights,” the cardinal said.

These topics are summarized in the safeguarding of the common good, as expressed in the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution, “Gaudium et Spes.” Without these topics “there is no room for the happy life,” the cardinal said.

“The little happinesses, which we often are aware of only when they are lacking, are nourished by a source, by a promise of good, justice and truth which Socrates” appreciated “and which the Christian event reveals completely to man,” he continued.

The “little” and “great happiness” have their roots in the gift of self, he said; in fact, “the key to happiness lies in giving oneself for the good.”

In this connection, the cardinal mentioned the example of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and John Paul II.

Padre Pio “certainly made many people happy. He freed them from sin, he bore their faults, and he led them to conversion,” said the cardinal. “Padre Pio was a man full of sufferings, but he was not unhappy.”

For her part, Thérèse of Lisieux, of delicate health and “queen of tears,” is the example “of the gift of self for an end,” he said. “She showed the way to follow: self-forgetfulness to please God.

“And John Paul II has stressed that ‘man cannot find himself completely if it is not through the gift of himself.’ In no realm of life can the Holy Father be described as an unhappy man, even when we know what he suffers.”

The “sincere gift of self” finds its supreme fulfillment in the gift of Christ on the cross, the cardinal said. The “great happiness,” he added, opens the door to the “little happinesses,” and the latter, in turn, if well interpreted, enables one to intuit the “great.”

Likewise, Cardinal Schönborn said that given that “little happinesses” are impossible in a society dominated by corruption or by the anxiety to possess, it is necessary to work for the respect of the person, the family, the unborn, social justice and peace. For the “great happiness” one must pass through the door of forgiveness and mercy, he added.

Lastly, he said that forgiveness, as a necessary condition for happy coexistence, is conceivable only in the perspective of an excessive love, such as divine mercy.

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