“Joy Divine,” her real name

An Alexian Village resident died recently. I know that’s not earth-shaking, but her name sure is. It’s Joy Divine. What her parents were thinking when the names Helen, Martha, Ethel, Dorothy, Agnes, and Margaret were dismissed escapes me. What destiny was held out for her many years of life with that double-imposing-handle? (What fate is contained in the name “Joe,” except, perhaps, as a bartender?)


Joy Divine. She was a staunch Republican and avid listener of Mark Belling’s conservative WISN radio show. We argued a lot and agreed about nothing except the day of the week and all done while sipping Alexian’s version of a malt – theirs’ is merely mushy ice cream.

Joy Divine. Two names that propel a person to become a person. Two names that kinda steer you toward something bigger than yourself – every, single time.

Taken separately, we get the Divine part, but it’s the Joy that so often eludes us; or does it? It’s not happiness which can quickly disappear after the Packers lose their lead in the fourth quarter. Happiness is when test results come back negative but flee away when your hefty copay is due in thirty days. Happiness is weeks before your 60th birthday, and you expect a big surprise party but dissipates on that day when your wife says she has a coupon for McDonald’s. “Do you wanna go?” That’s the temperament of happiness.

Joy isn’t fickled, it embeds itself within you. Joy is an investment in the goodness and quality of your life and the lives of those around you. Joy divests ourselves in order to invest in others. I think happiness is only about us, situationally, when joy lives within us but extends itself outward; to even people we may never meet. Joy embraces the qualities and quibbles of others as much as it lives with the same ones in our own lives. There’s a unity when experiencing joy. With joy, it naturally happens. There’s no thinking behind it because joy is what St. Paul calls, “The folly of the cross.” Unknown or misunderstood by others but genuinely believed by believers. Joy lives and breathes so deeply within you that it’s difficult to define. Friends tell you, “With all that’s going on in your life, you seem so peaceful. What’s up with that?” You smile back at them and say, “Well, it is what it is!”

NO. I hate that line. A joyful person would never, ever say that stupid, meaningless line with no meaning. A joyful person would smile back at them with eyes that convey, “You need to find out for yourself. I can’t tell you because it doesn’t belong to me.” Joy can be transmitted but not communicated. Joy is contagious without using words. Someone witnesses it in you and ponders about it later. “Why don’t  I get some of what he has?” A typical American response, by the way, as though “joy” is for purchase at the Kenosha Amazon plant and delivered by drone to your Washington Highlands home…by 3:00 pm. tomorrow! (Local reference, sorry.)

Joy is the parents of a two-year-old dying of a rare form of cancer. The little guy has two months left. Just try telling me that each and every single day of those two months or less is not full of joy – absorbing smiles that he, because of his age can’t absorb but his parents can? It makes no sense yet faithfully is makes all the sense in the world.

(As a side note, I know of how many people either as friends or newspaper stories that have “rare” form of cancer mentioned. I thought cancer isn’t so “rare!”)

Cynics dismiss this joyful portrayal as Pollyanna, Brigadoon, Shangri-la, Garden of Eden, Never Never Land, the Promised Land with no promise of it on earth, fairyland, Walden Pond, the land of milk and honey. That person’s in denial about the harsh realities of life and not becoming the same as the embittered person. Those poor folks forgot Joy’s last name. “Divine.”

Unlike happiness, joy is rooted and lived through a divine lens. A perfect lens that views the world and its occupants in a loving and merciful way. Presently, we’re living in ultra-cynical times but there have been others before and, I’m sure, more of them to come. When my priestly job was eliminated by a larger Catholic business, people asked me if it affected my faith. I was surprised by the question, but my response remained the same, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Not even an inch.

Joy’s lens was diminishing the last years of her life but enough to see shadows. She always complimented my outfits to which I replied, “I already know.” She also said that she hated my beard. Good eyesight. I lost the beard to my Republican friend. The eyesight of God is different than ours when we fail to hear and see the goodness in those we disagree with. Trying our best is called “Eucharist,” the “Body of Christ.”

Joy had a long life, but I only knew her in her old age. I don’t know if she lived up to her name, that’s between her “Joy” and His “Divine.” I told her repeatedly that I loved her name. Quietly, I’d say to myself, “I want that name, I want that disposition, I want that Godly attitude for myself for the rest of my life.”

God bless you, a friend of mine named Joy Divine.

             Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. all available on Amazon.com
                                                  “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                          “Soulful Muse,”

inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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