I wasn’t even looking for them, and I found them! Two gift cards. In the process of clearing out the closet, there they were. I love moments like that. What could be better?
Well, there may be a few things better than a couple of gift cards. As we enter this holiday season, I thought this would be the perfect time to share Father Kevin Walsh’s email-interview, particularly with those who may themselves be feeling lost during this time.
Father Kevin is the Pastor of Culpeper’s Precious Blood Catholic Church. So much more valuable than a gift card, Father Walsh offered to share what he described as “the most important gift that I have received in my life”, the gift of faith.
You may think, “easy for him to say”, especially for a priest who has served and studied all over the world, including Rome. But Father Kevin admitted, there have been “difficult moments”. Even he is challenged “to try to discern and listen to God’s voice in the events of my life”. But as he sees it, faith “can help us in everything”.
The science would say that Father’s got it exactly right. In his book, “The Gospel of Happiness”, Christopher Kaczor highlights the psychological literature in the areas of happiness and the practice of religious faith. He reported that “faith is related to positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. These together are referred to as PERMA and are considered in Positive Psychology to be elements essential to the experience of happiness, contributing to wellbeing and quality of life.
Positive Emotions: Kaczor detailed one study noting that “religious belief can compensate for lack of control, alleviate anxiety, and relieve stress, thereby easing negative emotions” while fostering positive emotions such as gratitude, hope, and joy.
Engagement: According to Kaczor, faith encourages engagement through worship, fellowship, and personal prayer. As Father Kevin described it, prayer is a chance “to discern and listen to His voice”, knowing that “God can help people who are suffering” and “can bring good out of evil”. It is about being “open to the inspirations that God gives”.
Relationships: God lets us know, no matter who we are, we are His, and we are loved. As Father Kevin described it, our faith tells us that God is always with us. In this way, faith offers comfort, reminds us that we are never alone, and invites us to love one another. In believing that “every person is made in the image and likeness of God”, Father considered this an opportunity for positive relationships with others, challenging us to “treat even difficult people charitably”.
Meaning: Kaczor calls it our contribution, with faith informing us that “what we do now really matters, not just now, but into eternity”. Father Kevin said it this way, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him”. For him, faith can be a guide – “informing my decisions all the time”.
Achievement or Accomplishment: Kaczor suggests that faith encourages intrinsic goals (personal growth, health, and relationships with yourself and others) above extrinsic goals (fame, power, wealth).
The science suggests that “those who seek to achieve intrinsic goals are much more likely to find happiness than those who seek extrinsic goals”.
Better than a gift card (or two), the benefits of faith are available to us all. Father Kevin suggested that it simply requires being open and willing to set aside the time on a regular basis to join in prayer and conversation with God. “The best way to start is by just beginning; He is already there waiting for us”.