How to be happy

While sales of novels, short stories and biographies wax and wane, one constant in the world of publishing seems to be that there is an ever-growing demand for self-help books. Titles that promise to show you how to fix your life, or at least whatever part of it that might seem to be broken, fill the “Mind, Body, Spirit” sections of bookshops. Few, though, of these titles are written from a specifically Christian perspective. The Catholic Truth Society hopes to change that, with a new collection of their popular booklets.

The first of these, How To Be Happy, has been written by Paul Nicholson SJ. The CTS website describes the booklet in this way: “The harder we try to achieve happiness, the more elusive it becomes. In the process of trying, we find we are working harder, longer, and less productively to fulfil our pursuits, creating not happiness but stress and anxiety. What can we do to break this vicious spiral? This title uses this question as a means to uncover the truth about what lies at the heart of our pursuit of happiness: our search for God.”

"The focus of the books of any major bookshop which offer the key to ‘win in life’ and ‘find happiness’ comes down to a reliance on self as the one who can make things right," comments Lisa Gregoire, CTS Managing Editor. "Consequently, we are encouraged to set what are in essence unachievable goals, often leading us to disappointment. This triggered the idea of this new publication. Fr Paul Nicholson’s How to be Happy does something quite different – and so presents a much healthier and hopeful message.

"He reminds us that happiness is best understood not as our own achievement, but as a gift. We do not merit happiness; rather we receive it and are called to grow more deeply into it. We truly learn what that means when we follow Christ. That does not mean that we will live our lives – in the here and now – free from challenge. Experience shows us that. But through our trials we have the opportunity to draw closer to God, which is what truly brings real and lasting happiness. To fully follow Christ is not an easy undertaking, as most of us know – but at least it is achievable."

Fr Paul Nicholson SJ said “This was an interesting topic to write about. Almost everybody wants to be happy, but it’s clear that there is no single route to this goal. The Christian tradition, though, offers many pointers drawn from centuries of experience. One starting-point explored in the booklet is the recognition that God wants us to be happy. From a Jesuit perspective, what St Ignatius wrote about discernment in his Spiritual Exercises is very helpful here. Pope Francis is making this teaching more available to the whole Church”.

The booklet 'How to be Happy' is published on 3rd May, and costs £3.50. It should soon be available at a church near you, or can be ordered from the CTS website.