Celebrate the merry, Mary and joyful month of May

Don’t you think May is the best month?

Spring. Warmth. Growth. New life. We honor our mothers. We honor our Mother. It even squeezes in a day to honor St. Joseph. And, OK, it might be my birth-month.

But seriously, May — with all of its budding potential — is a natural time to be full of life and full of joy.

And if there’s one thing that we’ve learned from Pope Francis in his 14 months as pontiff, it’s that Christian joy is essential to both evangelization and growth in faith.

In an address to seminarians and novices last July, the pope said:

“Do not be afraid to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, of having responded to his choice of love, and of bearing witness to his Gospel in service to the Church. And joy, true joy, is contagious; it is infectious ... it impels one forward.”

Editor's preview of this week's issue

Pope Francis was speaking to young men preparing for the priesthood, but his words are meant for all of us — including himself.

If there’s one thing that’s evident about Pope Francis, it’s that he is living out his time as pontiff with a joyful spirit. And people are noticing.

In a recent article in Parade, which quoted several “stars” as they shared their thoughts on Pope Francis, Notre Dame alumnus and former daytime TV host Regis Philbin said: “Pope Francis’s vigor, his happiness, his ability to mix with the people ... his warmth shines through.”

I think most of us can agree that, when it comes to talent, Regis knows of what he speaks.

Of course, Francis isn’t the first pope to encourage a joyful Christian attitude. Just look at the Church’s two newest saints: Popes St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. John Paul II was known for his big smile and even bigger charisma, and John XXIII — for lack of a better phrase — was kind of a riot.

His joy-filled nature came across through his public ministry, but its deeper roots can be found in his autobiography, “Journal of a Soul.”

During his seminary years, John XXIII struggled not with questions of his vocation, but with holiness. He liked to joke around, to hang out in the kitchen and talk. He liked to laugh and to be social.

At the end of the day, Angelo Roncalli would journal, picking apart his behaviors.

Was he being holy enough? Was he focused enough during prayer? Was he spending his time wisely?

For years, his journal entries indicated that his answer to those questions was a resounding, “No!” But through reflection, introspection and hard work, he eventually struck a successful balance between being prayerful and being social — and he attained a joyful holiness.

This is the joy exhibited by Pope Francis, and it’s the joy we are all called to. What better time to start than right now, in this very merry month of May?