How to Grow Franciscan Virtue of Joy

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

August 22, 2022

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are beginning days of sharing community life with each other. Local Director Sister Barbara Mathe shared these comments on joy with the Sisters at the Holy Family Convent as they met to together  for planning.

I have chosen JOY as the theme for this year. For such a small word, it packs a lot of power. In preparing for this talk I read that the word JOY is used 150 times in the Old Testament and 67 times in the New Testament. Strangely enough, the word happy is used only once (depending on the translation used).

We are often deceived about what will bring us joy. According to current media a new car, or a better phone, or a walk-in tub or shower are all we need to give us joy. The focus is on “what’s best to get”. What these commercials, billboards and ads have wrong is the source of joy. They confuse joy with temporary happiness. According to them we can only be happy when we have the latest, the newest thing. When we stop being happy with that thing, we look for the next thing that we hope will once more make us happy. This kind of happiness is built on circumstances – things that are easy to get and easy to lose. This happiness has a short life span…it doesn’t last!

Thankfully, God didn’t make us for happiness, He made us for JOY! Joy is something more, something special, something different because it comes from SOMEONE…SOMEONE who dwells within our souls. It comes from the very essence of who and Whose we are. Where the Holy Spirit is present, there we can expect to find joy. It is found when we stop living for what’s coming next and start living for where we are now. It is found in the goodness and the beauty of everything around us… in birds singing, the warmth of the sun, the rain watering our plants, a meal shared with a friend…the list could go on and on. The point is: Joy is long term, eternal, it lasts. The point is we can continue to bask in joy long after the physical experience of it has faded away.

If so, JOY is the language of the reign of God, spoken to us by the Word of God, and dwelling among us in the Spirit. It isn’t of our making, but of God’s. He offers it as a GIFT to everyone. Joy is there for the asking. It is part of trusting and knowing that we are deeply loved by our God. Joy is often unplanned, catching us by surprise. It arises when we least expect it to be one of the outcomes of a situation. And yet joy grounds us, is always with us, sustains us, and provides us with life-giving power. Through our knowledge and understanding of God’s eternal love, the source and foundation of our joy grows ever wider, deeper and more secure.

It is possible to experience joy while feeling sad, or angry, or happy. That’s because joy is something other than a feeling. Of course, many of us feel some sort of happiness when we see a beautiful sunrise/sunset. But this happiness is a passing feeling. Joy is an attitude rooted in the unshakeable faith and hope which these events inspire. We don’t have to be bubbly, happy-go-lucky persons to be “joyful”. We just need to be authentically who we are. Adversities can be overcome. No matter the struggles we’re undergoing, we know WHO we serve and we know that He brings us joy. Because it comes from God, joy also brings us peace, transformation and healing.


            “Ask and you shall receive” (John 16:24) Joy comes from our connection, our relationship with the source of all joy – GOD! It’s all about relationships!

(Gal. 5:22) tells us that Joy is a fruit of the Christian life.  It is the fruit of a life of prayer…our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. We can access this inner joy despite the outer chaos and stress of daily living.


Outward joy can be manifested in a variety of ways – for some it is shown in song, or dance or great exuberance, for others it will be celebrated quietly.

Inner joy says “All is well, all is well, all is well” (Julian of Norwich). It is a confidence that God loves me and that, despite everything going on in my life, He is in control.

During our meditation we prayerfully sit in silence allowing God to love us and allowing ourselves to love Him. God in turn graces us with inner peace as we let go of the barriers we hold us back from true JOY– fear, anxiety, loneliness, lack of confidence, and worry. When we open up to God, we receive JOY! Let us open ourselves to the joy within. Let us allow it to carry us forward and sustain us.

As we begin this year together, let us be a source of JOY for one another!


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