Young adults from St. Paul Parish, Princeton, provide music for the Lenten retreat in Burlington.  Kaitlin Kowalec photo
Young adults from St. Paul Parish, Princeton, provide music for the Lenten retreat in Burlington. Kaitlin Kowalec photo
What does it mean to be happy? How do we live a life of thankfulness?

These were among the questions young people sought guidance on during a retreat March 7 in St. Mary Church, Bordentown, a worship site of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish. The retreat, titled “Blueprint for Joy,” was open to young adults ages 18-39. One of its main focuses was to guide the faithful toward a more fruitful Lenten season.

Dominican Father John Paul Walker – pastor of St. Mary Parish, New Haven, Conn., the mother church of the Knights of Columbus – served as the keynote speaker for the day, which included music and icebreakers, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the opportunity for Confession and the celebration of Mass.

One of his talks centered around “The Secret to Happiness.” Happiness, he said, is something most people think about. But what does it mean and how does one achieve it? He asked those gathered to view happiness in two columns: “What fulfills us and what does not.”

“We can only know human happiness,” Father Walker said. “Anything that dehumanizes us is when we start sapping our own happiness.”

He admitted that sin can be tempting and even appear fun, but in the long run, it leads to turmoil. Thus the only thing standing in the way of  happiness is yourself, and by knowing and accepting your shortcomings, you can begin to overcome them.

God guides his faithful away from unvirtuousness through his Commandments, Scripture, the saints and Church teachings, Father Walker said. Humans were made to do goodness, he said, but people must not rely on their own willpower. Rather, one must look to virtue, which he defined as “a semi-stable habit of the soul that inclines us toward doing the authentic good.”

A life of virtue can transform a person in three ways, he said. “It forms our intellect, allowing us to know God better and see more of him in the world; our will shapes us to love what he loves and what he desires; and our passions, or emotions, can be a tool to shape our life.”

Though people are not perfect, living a life of virtue can “get us close, and God will guide us there.”

During the retreat, which was sponsored by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Father Walker also spoke on “Eucharistic Living.” He discussed how living a life transformed by Christ in the Eucharist leads to a life of love. Living the Eucharist begins with awareness, he said, urging all to become more aware of their blessings.

The word “eucharist” translates to “thanksgiving,” and Father Walker recommended a 30-day challenge for Lent. Each day write down three things for which you are thankful. Each day must be different, he said, and the end result will help instill a newfound joy of life’s blessings. He also urged those gathered to consider beginning each prayer with thanks and to give one thanks for each need asked for.

To truly live a life of thanksgiving, one must remove any obstacles, the deadliest of which, he believes, is jealousy. “Jealousy can strike at the heart of faith. It can give us a feeling that ‘God hasn’t given me what I need’ or that we can’t trust him … but God will give us what’s needed for our path,” Father Walker said.

If people were given everything they asked for, everyone would be spoiled, and “God would serve us rather than the other way around,” he said. Instead of looking at what we don’t possess, faithful must ask themselves, “Am I fully using everything God has given me?”

A life of Eucharist is a life wholly transformed from the inside out by God’s grace. “Although there may be obstacles in our life that can poison our unity, we must keep faith in God’s plan for the person we are to become,” he said.