I was a postulant with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity when I learned that there is a difference between being happy and being joyful. Up until then, I had thought the terms were interchangeable. Someone could be happy being able to see their friends. A new smartphone could spark joy.

My postulant directress thought differently.

She said something to the effect that happiness is rooted in circumstance and can easily change. Happiness can also be blind. It’s easy to be happy when you earn an A on an assignment, or it happens to be your birthday.

But does that happiness remain when the grades are poor, or it’s just an ordinary morning? One can say that they are happy by the expression on their face, but what about the hunger of the heart seeking attention?

Joy on the other hand is based on reality. It’s a choice. A person can feel hurt by someone’s betrayal, depressed from mourning the loss of a loved one, or exhausted from living with a mental illness, and still choose to find joy. They acknowledge and take care of the negative, while choosing to see the positive.

I realized after my postulant directress’s reflection that I had been living a happy life, but not necessarily a joyful one. People said I was joyful because they saw smiles and laughs, but did they see me?

Religious life changed a lot of things. There is joy in serving others, in living the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There is joy in walking with Jesus, in allowing Him to be the Love of your Life. Though, one also sees the harsh reality many live, the sacrifices that need to be made, and the truth of one’s very self. Weaknesses are not something to run from and hide. They are meant to be embraced, because Jesus loves us in our whole being.

I was a videographer before I entered the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, and have been able to continue my craft throughout Initial Formation. The video included with this article was meant to show and discuss the joys of religious life. One can see the smiles of the sisters, hear the brightness in their voices, and know this vocation is extremely rewarding. But there is also the lighthouse. The joy Jesus offers is that light directing us in the darkness we may find ourselves in. There are also sisters walking on cement slabs between waves. The joy Jesus offers keeps us level when life seems to only want to drown us. Sisters are standing together arm in arm in the beginning, and the joy Jesus offers embraces us in our times of need. 

There is so much joy in religious life. Watch below to see for yourself!

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Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash