I was 17 when I met him, and I only knew him for two days. Yet, the memory of him warms my heart even now. He was a middle-aged priest from Ireland, visiting the same Chicago seminary that I was. He had a thick, red hair and a thousand freckles. His cheerfulness, laughter, and smile were contagious to everyone around him. His deep, Irish accent seemed to sing when he spoke, and every room he entered seemed a little brighter.
Over the years, I have forgotten the jokes he told and the stories he shared, but one thing he said still lives on in my mind. One evening, one of the other teenagers, visiting the seminary, joked that our smiling “Saint Patrick” certainly didn’t fit the mold of the solemn and serious priest.
To this, our new friend just laughed harder and said, “Well, my boy, if God didn’t want us to be happy, then why does smiling feel so darned good and frowning feel so darned bad?”
I took that moment with me and stored it in a special place in my soul. Even though I took a different path and didn’t become a priest myself, the lesson I learned from that merry Irishman has stayed with me. I knew, from that time on, that God not only loves us, but also wants us to be happy in our lives here. We may face challenges, tragedies, suffering, loss, and eventually, our own deaths. But with God’s love, we can still choose to give joy, live in joy, and make this world a more loving and joyous place for everyone.
I never saw that angel from Ireland again. I am sure, though, that wherever he is right now, he is spreading joy and sharing love. That red-headed Child of God gave me a glorious example of how to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, even while we are still here on Earth. Because of him, I laugh more, love more and smile more. He was right, smiling does feel so darned good. May all of your days be full of smiles.
By - Joseph J. Mazzella - firstname.lastname@example.org