A reflection on Felicity
Felicity. Some may think that it is one of our easier values to define. It just means to be happy, doesn’t it? But does that mean that we need to be happy all the time?
Our diary says that ‘felicity is an attitude of mind, a disposition of the heart which manifests itself in cheerfulness, good humour, joy, happiness, hope, optimism, friendliness, courtesy, positive thinking, inner peace, self-acceptance and courage’. But what do all these words really mean? What is the true meaning of felicity? For Mary Ward, felicity was found in a spirit of freedom – freedom from anything that made her unloving; it was found in justice – being a person for others and a cheerful giver; and it was found in sincerity – being true to who she was.
We can learn from Mary Ward’s story what felicity really is. Mary Ward encountered so many challenges throughout her life journey. She was faced with troubled health, she was ex-communicated from the Church with Pope Urban VII naming her a ‘heretic, schismatic and rebel to Holy Church’; she lived as a woman in a time when women had no real means of power and this was highlighted when a Jesuit remarked that, while Mary Ward’s ‘English Ladies’ were remarkable for their fervour, ‘when all was done, they are but women’. Yet she never gave up. Mary persevered and had an unprecedented amount of courage, optimism and positive thinking. She never lost hope.
Why was Mary able to do all of this? Mary put her faith and trust in God. She believed that God would lead her to where she was meant to go and give her the courage to do the difficult things and face trials. Despite the fact that Mary died in 1645, believing that her work was shattered, Mary’s companions were inspired by her and continued to live out Mary’s mission that ‘women in time will come to do much’ and so here we are today.
Felicity is therefore at the heart of all of our Loreto values. It allows us to work towards right and just relationships, to be authentic in all that we say and all that we do…felicity empowers us to be cheerful, peaceful and courageous whilst ever maintaining an attitude of hope.
In being people of felicity, we are called to resist self-pity, self-centredness, envy, cynicism and apathy. How may we do this?
For me, I think our theme for the year perfectly sums it up. ‘With a cheerful spirit we ignite joy in the hearts of others’. It reminds us that by simply being cheerful we make a difference to the lives of those around us. Our theme highlights how our actions and attitudes impact others.
We often can feel weighed down and full of self-pity whether it be simply because of school work or because of a more serious personal matter. Life will not always be perfect but there will be good things – perhaps just a simple smile from someone in the corridor. However, we must always remember that we are still on the journey and so there will be ups and there will be downs that we must reflect on and learn from. It is during these times when we are at our most vulnerable that felicity is most important. We must make a choice, a choice to remember that we are Loreto girls and so we are people of felicity, despite what we are feeling.
Just like Mary Ward, we need to have a ‘presumption of good will’ never anticipating the worst but always thinking the best of people particularly when we have troubles in our relationships. Instead of dwelling on the negative, we need to think about the positives in our lives. Making that choice is often so hard when we think about the bigger picture and all the sadness, fear, suffering and desperation in the world. However, instead of feeling guilty about what we have, we must think about how we can make a positive change in this word. Loreto does so many social justice campaigns like Loreto Day, Project Compassion, Week without Words and all the other amazing campaigns. These are opportunities for us to see the hope and positive change that can happen as a result of our dedication to a cause. And so when we see a terrible atrocity in the world we must have courage, hope and positive thinking to ask ‘What can I do to help?’ rather than think about how sad it is.
Therefore, this value is about a lot more than just being happy all the time. It is a value, like all of our others, where we can see felicity in the words and actions of others, in our relationships but also in the way we treat ourselves.
So here we stand today, with the mission to be people of felicity remembering that although we may not always feel felicitous, we can always act with felicity just as Mary Ward did.
Philippa Tonkin, Year 12