After last week’s newsletter article, “Eve of Destruction,” I thought we’d do something lighter this week.

I grew up in a family of Sicilian immigrants in rural New York State. As you’d expect, we were all Roman Catholics. Those were the days when the Catholic Church was pretty strict and conservative. Having grown up in that era, I clearly see the positive changes in the church over the years, although I am no longer Catholic. But back then, in the church I remember, it was a pretty bleak and joyless environment.

Except for Felix.

John Cali

Felix O’Neill was the parish priest at St. Patrick’s Church in a town just a few miles from my hometown. He was straight from the “Old Sod” and spoke with a delightful Irish brogue.

Back in those days at our church I was an altar boy (the priest’s assistant at services). We had a wonderful parish priest, but he was extremely serious and strict. I recall him rarely smiling or joking around. He was a big powerful man, with a resonant voice and imposing presence. Everyone, adults and kids, stood in awe and even fear of him.

Felix, on the other hand, was always clowning around, joking, laughing, and obviously thoroughly enjoying his life and work.

As an altar boy, I was sometimes invited to the periodic dinners the area priests had for themselves, public excluded. Felix was always the life of the party. I could see him working his magic, lighting up the whole place and his more serious colleagues. He personified that joy Spirit talks about so much.

Those of you who were or are Catholic will remember the old-time confessional. I don’t know what the church laws are today, but back then you had to go to confession at least once a year, and preferably every week.

We kids used to dread going to confession to our parish priest. If you had anything more serious to confess than forgetting to say your morning prayers, you were in deep trouble! He’d grill you until you were sweating and panting to get the hell out of there. (No pun intended.)

So I wised up eventually, and started going to Felix for confession. You could tell him you’d murdered the Pope last night, and he’d simply say “Keep up the good Catholic work, and say five Hail Marys for your penance.” That was it. No grilling, no recriminations, no doom and gloom about what a sinner you were.

As I think back on those days so long ago, I realize Felix was closer to God than so many other priests and their parishioners. Simply because he was always joyful, always full of fun and laughter. Wherever he went, people were uplifted and inspired. What a great gift he was to us all!

Felix taught me, as a young boy, what God was all about — deep appreciation for the gift of life. And finding the joy in every present moment.

Here’s Spirit.

Spirit

Many of you believe you must do great deeds, be all things to all people before you can justify your existence. And be close to God/Goddess.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The truth is all you must do is be yourself. Period!

No matter what your “station” in life, you can, as you say, “bloom where you are planted.”

While doing great deeds and being all things to all people may seem the ideal, the truth is, it is not.

Great deeds, whatever you perceive those to be, are fine. Being all things to all people — well, that’s another thing. In fact, it’s an impossible dream.

So many of you try to live that impossible dream. In the process you burn yourselves out. You’re exhausted, discouraged, defeated.

We will go so far as to say you do not have to do anything. Being is its own justification. You are all worthy beings simply because you exist.

So where do you go from there?

You look for the joy in every present moment. You learn to deeply love and appreciate yourself. You take good care of yourself — physically, emotionally, spiritually. You begin to see yourself as we see you. You begin to appreciate yourself as we appreciate you. You begin to love yourself as we love you.

There is nothing to seek, nothing to find outside yourself. It’s all in you.

When you realize this, you will be flooded with indescribable joy, for you will have remembered who you are and why you are here.

Joy is your life’s purpose. Joy, appreciation, love are your life’s purpose.

When you can simply be joy, be you, that is the greatest deed you can ever do. It is the greatest gift you can ever give to those you love. For then you are bringing, if you will, God to earth.

The powerful energy of joy you radiate will uplift and inspire others immediately around you. It will ripple out into the world and the entire universe, touching and transforming more souls than you can even imagine. That’s how powerful you are when you are joyful.

That is what Felix did so masterfully. Even though he’s now long gone from your earth, there are many who still feel the power of his joy.

You want to be more godlike? Then be like Felix.