Keeping Things That Spark Joy

by | May 17, 2019 | Formation, Reflections

Keeping things that spark joy

Not many can claim that they have written a book, let alone one published in 30 countries. Not many can claim they have been on Time’s list of “100 most influential list of women (2015). And here is a special one. Not many can claim that each episode of their Netflix series (Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), has been shown to spark an uptick in donations to Thrift Shops!

Marie Kondo can claim all that. And more! How can this be? It can be because people in this consumer culture have a sense something is out of place. There is too much. It can be because people relate to her mantra “keep things that spark joy and get rid of the rest”. It is the mantra of people seeking to declutter their lives.


It got me thinking about what sparks joy in Vincentian hearts.

What sparked joy in St. Vincent and Louise?

It does not take too much reflection to think of what sparked joy in the hearts of the many in our great “cloud of witnesses” in the Vincentian tradition – St. Vincent, St. Louise, Bl. Frederic, Bl. Rosalie, St. Elizabeth and so on.

They each knew the joy they felt when they took seriously “whatever you do for the least of my sisters and bothers you do for me”. It brought the double joy of seeing a previously fearful face light up when someone experienced God’s love in the concrete. It brought the joy of seeing that person as God sees them in the depth of their hearts. Maybe we can throw in their joy at experiencing God’s own joy seeing all of creation.

Isn’t that about doing and reflecting?

How to spark that joy in ourselves

St. Paul gives us a clue. Hold on to

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.* Philippians 4:8

Isn’t that what contemplation is all about. The great Jesuit writer Walter Burghardt described contemplation as “a long loving look.” and seeing what we are not always conscious of. Survey our action to see what sparks joy? … and what we did or did not do that keeps us from experiencing true joy (in contrast to mere pleasure)
How about this as way of deepening our joy.

In the Jesuit tradition, it is called “consciousness examen”. It is not to be confused with an examination of conscience. Rather, it is taking some time to become aware of where and how God is present in our lives.

A simplified way of looking for joy in our lives

As I look back over the past day or week…

  • What did I do for others (and therefore for Jesus and him who sent him)?
  • When did I see the face of God in my brothers and sisters?
  • When did I not see the face of God in brothers and sisters? Why?

Some may be interested in this brief video that looks at this day through the lens of joyful gratitude.