Saturday, October 4, 2014

Get Happy! The Beatitudes of Life For the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Part I

By Kristen M. Soley
In this presentation, I hope to unpack for you the Eight Beatitudes given us by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, and how we can apply them to the vocation of wife and mother. 

What is Beatitude?

First, it is important to understand what ‘Beatitude’ means.  Beatitude, according to Merriam-Webster is “a state of utmost bliss.”  The word comes from early 15th century meaning, "supreme happiness," and directly from Latin beatitudinem, "state of blessedness.”3   

In previous talks, we have learned that we were created to know, love, and serve God, that we may be happy with Him in Heaven.  We have also discussed that each of us is called to sainthood, and our vocation is the perfect path leading to this end.  Sainthood is eternity in heaven, eternal beatitude, or happiness. 

Did you know that we can begin to enjoy heaven on earth?  This is what we ask for each time we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” in the Our Father.  We are asking for union with Christ.  We desire a foretaste of heaven while here on earth.  Using the Eight Beatitudes as our guide, we can ‘Get Happy!’ right here on earth!! 

The Beatitudes

The Catechism teaches that “The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus' preaching… and depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity.

·        They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection

·        They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.

·        They are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations

·        They proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ's disciples.

·        They have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” (CCC1716-17)

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces each aspect of happiness, or beatitude, with the word ‘blessed.’  Therefore, the words blessed, happiness, and beatitude are synonymous. 2    In the book Eight Happy People, Reverend John J. Ahern explains, “We know that genuine happiness is a creative activity nourished and sustained by serving others in this life.  And the reward for that is happiness eternal.” 2   

This is a perfect summation of the vocation of wife and mother; finding genuine happiness in serving others, for love of God, with the hope of eternal happiness.  Each of us desires happiness or beatitude.  We know that Jesus is the source.  In His sermon on the mount, this seemingly simple lesson, Jesus outlines the recipe for true happiness, or beatitude. 

Today we are going to unpack the beatitudes, individually, as they apply to the vocation of wife and mother.  We are going to do this through practical insights as well as investigating the lives of some pretty amazing saints, and how they achieved beatitude.

As we look into the lives of the saints who have lived out the beatitudes and have paved the road upon which we can travel to this happiness, it is important to highlight one saint who lived out each of these with perfect, humble, obedient, gentle, loving, and pure submission; The Blessed Virgin.  She is the model we as wives and mothers can look to in each of the beatitudes.

The Eight Beatitudes, in the text of St. Matthew chapter 5 read as follows:

1.      Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (verse 3).
2.      Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land (verse 4).
3.      Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (verse 5).
4.      Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill (verse 6).
5.      Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy (verse 7).
6.      Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God (verse 8).
7.      Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God (verse 9).
8.      Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (verse 10).

The First Beatitude - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, (Verse 3)

“The word poor seems to represent an Aramaic 'ányâ (Hebrew 'anî), bent down, afflicted, miserable, poor.”1   However, gospel poverty in the vocation of wife and mother does not mean we should “Go and sell all that we possess and give to the poor.” (MT 19:21)  Nevertheless, he is asking that we hold no attachment to the things of this world; “To be in the world and not of it.” (John 15:19) 

To fully understand gospel poverty, it might be easier, as Thomas Dubay writes in the book Happy Are You Poor, to point out what Gospel poverty is not:

Carelessness, disorder, laziness, destitution – Living gospel poverty does not give permission to not work to provide for our family.  We need to provide a suitable home for our children; providing sufficient food, clothing, shelter, orderliness, cleanliness, work, and a plethora of love.6

Miserliness or economy – “The miser loves money such that he is reluctant to part with it and would deny another what he needs.”6   This creates a spirit of greed, not generosity.   We are to show generosity to our children and in front of them as often as we can.  Let them see us provide meals to the sick or new moms.  If we see somebody at the library or grocery store unable to pay their bill, make the difference for them. 

As St. John Crysostom said, “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs."

Insensitivity to beauty or health - “Scripture nowhere advises us to be careless regarding health.  True enough, there is no support either for pampering one’s body. 6

Gospel poverty is “about 180 degrees removed from the values of the world.  ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.’ Indeed they are not…  If we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find a picture as opposite as it could be; humility, being last, unknown, hidden in Christ, is a condition for getting into the kingdom… prestige is worthless and even an obstacle to greatness… the hard road and the narrow gate, carrying the cross every day is immensely important… dying to our selfishness and crucifying our illusory desires are indispensable … impressing people is of no importance at all, whereas being pleasing to the divine eyes is everything.”6

Dubay speaks of gospel poverty in marriage through the lives of married saints.  “Without exception they combined a care for their family with a bountiful sharing with the needy.  Without exception they were beautifully fulfilled and happy people.” 6 

The goal in our vocation is to live in this spirit of poverty and with God’s grace, our children will have the inspiration to follow this example.  There are many great saints who were called to the vocation of marriage and family and lived out this gospel poverty.  Their lives have given us great examples to follow.

St. Thomas More, chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, lived a simple life.  He did ensure their children were educated.  “He preferred staples to delicacies in his diet… He dressed simply.”6  

Another great example, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, loved her prince husband dearly.  She dressed beautifully to please him, but underneath wore a hair shirt.  She was exceedingly generous to the poor.  Elizabeth, with her husband’s blessing, assumed control of affairs, distributed alms in all parts of the territory of her husband, giving even state robes and ornaments to the poor.  In order to care personally for the unfortunate she built a hospital with twenty-eight beds and visited the patients daily to attend to their wants; at the same time she aided nine hundred poor daily. She said, “How can I, a miserable creature, remain wearing a crown of earthly dignity when I see my King Jesus crowned with thorns.” 6 She saw Jesus in everybody.

Offering wisdom to his married sister, St. Charles de Foucald wrote, “You live simply, avoid any unnecessary expense; in your manner and way of life, withdraw even further from everything that smacks of the world, vanity, and pride… There must be no economizing on good books (spiritual masters and lives of saints)… no economizing on alms; no reductions here, but rather increases… Trust! Trust!  Be free from all anxiety… God will arrange [your children’s] future and hundred thousand times better than you and all the people in the put together could do.” 6

A practical illustration of gospel poverty in our vocation can be found in Volume 6, by Anne the Lay Apostle:

Let us examine what is necessary for a child to flourish in today’s world. Food, shelter and clothing are the barest concrete necessities. What kind of food does your child need? Simple food, prepared at home, by someone who loves the child. This is the best way to nourish a growing body. If your child is well used to eating at home and eating simple foods, that child will not demand more elaborate fare. If the child does demand more elaborate fair, you simply say, “No.” Now we look at shelter. When a child is born and laid in his mother’s arms, he does not wonder how many rooms are in his home. He feels safe and warm and is content. That child is brought home. Again, he is not concerned with how big his house is, rather, he is concerned that when he cries, his mother responds. The child begins to grow and look around. Still, he does not say, “Why don’t I have a big house? Why don’t I have an expensive car to drive in?” He looks to his parents for guidance in this area and if his parents are content with what that family has, then the child understands there is no reason to complain.7

Living out gospel poverty in our own lives is simple, but not always easy.  A practical application of this is to buy the second best of whatever it is we need or want, i.e., car, and even some luxury items, such as a boat. Don’t buy the best or the most expensive, rather, buy the second in line.  Remember, we are looking to buy an item to meet our need, not demonstrate affluence nor status.  

Always trust that God knows what we need, more so than we.  This wisdom can help us differentiate between needs and wants, especially when it comes to making sacrifices for the greater good of our family.

“God intended for us to use wealth as a means to happiness, not as happiness itself.” (unknown)
Part II - Blessed are the Meek for They Shall Possess the Land - is next!  Come back for more! 
-All For-

2.      Eight Happy People, Reverend John J. Ahern
6.      Happy are you Poor, Dubay
7.      Volume 6, Direction for Our Times – Anne the Lay Apostle
8.      Courageous Virtue, Stacy Mitch (A Bible Study on Moral Excellence For Women)
11.   The Twenty-Four Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Luisa Piccaretta

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