As I read what Pope Benedict said at his meetings with various groups in Brazil during the past few days, I was struck by one of his talks to a group of Poor Clare Nuns who came to be with him at a rehabilitation center for young people who have been addicted to drugs. The place is called “The Farm of Hope.”
Putting the two elements together—cloistered contemplative nuns and young people who have been addicted to narcotics—the Holy Father pointed out that people take drugs to find happiness, delight, to escape problems and sorrows, and to experience beauty. And the result of narcotics is always false, always temporary, always a threat to the body, the emotions, the minds, and the souls of those who take them. On the other hand, Sacred Scripture is full of references to the beauty of creation, to the joy of living with and for God, to the happiness brought to us by our faith, our hope, our love of God and neighbor. And as he left the Farm of Hope, he wished both the nuns and the young people being rehabilitated “Peace and Good”—the greeting so often used by Saint Francis, since the Poor Clares are a Franciscan group.
We are Dominicans here in this monastery, but we enjoy the same peace and good, the same joy, delight, and happiness which are both natural and supernatural and are so marvelously REAL and in accordance with the aspirations of the human heart. When I sit on my front porch and watch the various species of bird that come to my two feeders and try to identify each, I don’t have to worry about whether I will become “hooked” on birds, or be arrested for seeking pleasure in them. When our dogwood trees and azaleas explode in fresh vegetation and color and sheer beauty, I can say with deep joy those psalms which speak of the glory of creation. One of our scripture professors in the seminary pointed out to us that when we praise the work of God’s hands and fingertips, the psalmist had in mind the kinds of work proper to men and to women. Men work with their hands, using plows and shovels and hammers and stone. Women work with their fingertips, using needles and looms and spinning wheels. Thus scripture suggests that the “big things” of this world are the products of God’s manly work, the small, beautiful delicate things of this world are the products of God’s feminine creativity. The hands of God produce the oak tree; the fingertips of God give us daffodils and our Texas bluebonnets.
As we think of these things, let us be mindful of those who are unhappy and are tempted to seek happiness where it can’t be found—as in marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and alcohol—or who actually use those things and become terribly addicted to them, selling their souls to acquire their daily “fixes” of narcotics or other mind-altering drugs.
I once knew a woman who was involved in a very unhappy marriage. Seeking pleasure instead of the joy denied her by a faithless husband, she smoked THREE packs of cigarettes a day. When the doctor told her that she would die if she kept that up, she replied that without cigarettes, life wouldn’t be worth living. How sad! Let us be grateful for our joy, our peace and our good. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.