The Secret Joy

Chrismatory as used by priests in the past. Each compartment held oil for sacramental purposes such as confirmation or anointing the ill. Photo: VAwebteam*

I was grateful here for Disciple’s comments and in surfing to his site (here) I was also moved to see something that he expresses forthrightly there. It is the joy of the Faith.

Now in my hopefully soon to be self-published book Cor Jesu Sacratissimum, I also expand on this theme of the joy of the Faith.

It is an important one to express, precisely because it tends to remain subliminal to the world at large, barely visible at all.

Today I thought I would put up another extract from the book to do with all of this.

Now my book is not intended as autobiography. But there are some themes that I illustrate via slices of my own story. This is particularly the case with my exit out of the New Age scene and entry into the Church. I was baptised initially as an Anglican and later confirmed a Catholic.

And all this is relevant to what I try to say here about joy in this extract (re-paragraphed for better consumption from a monitor).


But if there is much I must pass over here, I must not neglect the Sacrament of Confirmation. For it happened that during the Easter night of the year 2000 Anno Domini, Kim and I were confirmed into the Catholic Church. And a strange and mysterious joy would descend that night.

And this joy would go on deepening, year after year. Looking back over a decade, it is clearly one of the great joys of my life.

Yet it would seem to be a joy that only Catholics can understand. At least, that is what my life experience says to me. I had felt nothing like this as a baptised Anglican. Nor in the Anglican college I later attended, did I see evidence of this same kind of blessing. Though it was certainly transparent in another college later on in Catholic Ireland.

And as we shall explore further on, there is a peculiar joy that can be noticed in Catholics everywhere – even alienated ones bear testimony to it.

It is a strange thing, the world can be envious of other kinds of joy. We may be blessed with the gift of having children and all the world can see this happiness. The childless may look at us in longing.

We may have the grace of true marriage and great and obvious felicity in that good fortune. And those who do not have this same grace may look at us in longing.

But if we have the joy of being initiated into the Catholic Church, it is unlikely indeed that non-Catholics will envy us.

They will really have no idea what we are experiencing.

It will be a secret joy – this joy of being confirmed in the Church. Try as we might to break the secret and tell others that we have found something incredible, it will likely fall on deaf ears.

Probably it will be supposed that we have found something comparatively superficial. It will be compared perhaps to the satisfaction certain people find in joining a tribe. The world is full of such clans: We Elvis fans; we followers of Manchester United; We Tories; We Republicans; We Democrats.

What the depth of becoming Catholic really signifies is likely to be interpreted in such shallow terms as these. Another tragic casualty of the materialistic world-conception!

Now this is not to say there is no special meaning or gratification in supporting a political cause or even a football club. It is just that to compare such satisfaction – even meaningful satisfaction – is to do no justice at all to He who said:

“I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15.5 from the Douay Rheims)

Indeed, I was myself totally unprepared for the joy of my confirmation. My baptism had been moving and meaningful indeed. But this went further, deeper – much deeper.

Perhaps it stood out in relief, precisely because it was so unexpected. Unlike many converts perhaps, I had not entered the process of initiation into the Catholic Church out of a deep thirst.

Indeed it happened that I was by now in a liberal Catholic context in ultra-liberal Switzerland. There were no Anglican institutions in these rural Swiss and German borderlands. And the liberal Catholic priests there welcomed me to communion. I saw no reason back then not to receive.

And indeed I felt no burning need to enter the Catholic Church. In fact it was something that I pursued from a sense of obedience. That is to say, I did it because I felt I ought to. It felt that the time had come to take this step now. It was not that I longed to be Catholic.

Thus it was perhaps, that I was not anticipating very much at all. For when the confirmation came that Easter night, I was surprised – surprised indeed by the sheer intensity of joy, which I felt.

I went home that night in joy. I woke the next morning in joy, with an unexpected longing to go a second Easter Sunday Mass. No, nothing really prepared me for this at all.

Yes the joy of my entry into the Catholic Church is amongst the most profound I have ever known. But few indeed will ever envy me. Catholics of Faith will know what I mean. The others will have not a clue.

And here I would like to offer a moment of personal tribute. For I have yet to say a word of how all this became possible. For Kim and I were confirmed by a remarkable Swiss priest. He had gone to his bishop for permission to give us this Sacrament himself.

He was I think the most traditional priest I had really met yet – a far, far cry from the typical Swiss clergy. His celebration of the Mass was filled with reverence. And like so many traditional priests, he had clearly suffered for his adherence to Tradition. He had also studied the work of Valentin Tomberg.

Dear Swiss priest, I doubt you can ever fully know what you gave Kim and myself by taking us under your wing and seeing to it that we were initiated into the Catholic Church. In the next world, I am sure that you will see. In this world, there is no way you see the full enormity and joy of what you accomplished by His Grace …

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