Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Happy! The Beatitudes of Life for the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Part IV

Kristen M. Soley

The Fourth Beatitude - Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

The Catechism defines justice as: 
…The moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.
The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.(CCC1807)
Unpacking this a bit, Stacy Mitch, in the bible Study, Courageous Virtue, explains:
Practicing the virtue of justice means habitually giving to another person what is due. A just person, for example, returns borrowed items, pays their bills in full, obeys God, and is polite and respectful to other people. These are the ordinary duties of all respectable people.

As Christians, the virtue of justice, elevated by God’s grace, enables us to go beyond the minimal call of duty and actually enter into the heroic practice of this virtue. As Christians, we practice the virtue of justice by acting toward others and God as He does. 8
Again, St. Thomas More is a great saint who did hunger and thirst for justice. Thomas wrote the book Utopia, which “expresses the means to happiness in this life.” 2 As we discussed earlier, St. Thomas worked under King Henry the VIII as his chancellor. The King was married to Catherine of Aragon and she was barren. Catherine had been betrothed to King Henry’s older brother Arthur when she and Arthur were infants, but he died as a boy. Now King Henry demanded that the marriage was invalid and was “free to marry again.” 2

 The Pope did not consider the marriage of Henry and Catherine invalid and would not honor an annulment, Henry was then excommunicated. His divorce being final, Henry married Anne Boleyn hoping to receive an heir to his throne. Henry began the Church of England (Anglican). Soon the King demanded that “all his state officers pledge loyalty to him as head of the new Church of England… Henry let it be known that all who were disloyal would lose position, monies, property, and their lives if necessary.”    

For not accepting Henry’s claims, Thomas was charged with treason and was hanged on June 15, 1535; “For he had found happiness on earth through the law of God, and for this law he would hunger and thirst, even unto death.”

In our vocation, we are called to be just no less than in any other vocation. Living out justice in our homes is accomplished by working with our spouse to identify and communicate standards that reflect God’s laws and commands. We are called to communicate and employ fair rules, and enforce them, even when it is inconvenient. We are called to defend truth and teach our children the faith and lead by example that our little ones may follow close behind. 

Not only can we teach our children justice by our own lives, we can read to them the lives of saints and make sure they have this sort of reading available to them. Justice can also be taught by what they don’t see and hear. Try to avoid media that does not teach and defend God’s truth. 

Only in God and the observance of God’s law can a man find his personal fulfillment, his happiness.

Here is a good starting point for your family's House Rules.

Sources –
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
12. Michele Szekely -  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Get Happy! The Beatitudes of Life for the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Part III

Kristen M. Soley

The Third Beatitude - Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Merriam-Webster defines ‘mourn’ as, “To feel or express grief or sorrow.” The motive for mourning in this Beatitude is “not to be drawn from the miseries of a life of poverty, abjection, and subjection, which are the very blessings…, but rather from those miseries from which the pious man is suffering in himself and in others, and most of all the tremendous might of  evil throughout the world.” 1

Reverend Ahern teaches that mourning can best be illustrated through the life of St. Margaret Mary. “She was to seek a special happiness in convent life through mourning for sins and outrages committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and person by so many ungrateful men.”2 

Margaret Mary “found happiness through mourning for the sins of others.”2 And like Margaret Mary, a mourning soul is a victim soul who continue Jesus’ life upon earth, choosing to receive the flames of His heart for the sake of His most precious blood. Asking for sanctity of souls, these souls desire to be nailed, with Jesus, to the Cross, for suffering and reparation. These souls desire to soothe the pain which the creatures give Jesus with their sins; to console Jesus and draw souls to Him, to repair for their sins. 

To mourn, in the vocation of wife and mother, is to desire to repair for our sins and those of our brothers and sisters in Christ. First it is important to realize why a soul would choose to mourn in this way.

There is such grace that flows into a soul who is open to receive it, who, for love of God, works avoid offending Him through sin. The peace and joy of surrender into His loving arms brings such delight to a soul and when a soul lives in this privileged state, it desires nothing more than for all souls to share in this paradise. To see other souls, that also offend God or don’t know Him, causes mourning; mourning for the soul that is not at peace, separated from Him. This is true pain, indeed. For each soul desires this peace and joy without the full understanding of how to realize it. For offenses we commit against Jesus, we willingly take on the suffering of Jesus, that we and other souls may be drawn closer to Him. We do this to repair for sins and offenses against Him. In order for us to enjoy this type of relationship with Jesus, we need only ask forgiveness from Jesus, ask Him to help us love Him more, and obey His Will for us in our lives.

As a wife and mother, we have much opportunity for suffering, and we need not look far to find it. We can unite the suffering we endure with Christ Crucified in our own home, be it a round of the flu, poor decisions made by our children, financial stress, etc. Through these opportunities, we can choose to accept this suffering for the misgivings of ourselves and our brothers and sisters, to join it with Jesus’ sacrifice at the Holy Mass. Carolyn King calls this the “great exchange.”

Luisa Piccaretta, in The Twenty-Four Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ illustrates this beautifully in conversation with Jesus:

I will give you the drops of my blood to atone and make up the honor and regard that your enemies deny you with their insults and offenses… When I suffer sorrows, pains and bitternesses, then pour out Your justice upon me, O Jesus, and take the satisfaction You want. But may the sinner be saved. O Jesus; may my pains be the bond which binds You and the sinner; and may my soul receive the consolation of seeing your Justice satisfied.” 11

“My beloved Good, You suffer greatly for the loss of souls, and for compassion, I place my being at your disposal. I will take your pains and the pains of the sinners upon yourself, leaving You relieved, and the sinner clinging to you. 11

Jesus made satisfaction for our sins on the cross, He suffered that we may be saved. We can cooperate with Him, for the love of souls. The saints understood this, and when we choose to mourn in this way, we can be like St. Margaret Mary who was “never unhappy, for she saw no contradiction between pain or suffering and happiness.”

Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation. - St. Augustine


Sources –
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


Monday, October 6, 2014

Get Happy - The Beatitudes of Life for the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Part II

By Kristen M. Soley

The Second Beatitude - Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. (Verse 4)

Merriam-Webster defines meek as, “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”  In the Bible, it translates Latin mansuetus or "submissive". 1

Again, Reverend Ahern, in the book Eight Happy Men, clarifies the meaning of meekness:

The gift of the Holy Ghost called piety is a quality of happiness enabling a man to control his love of himself. Christ’s whole plan for man’s happiness is for man to change the direction of his most Godlike quality, love, from self to love of God through love and service of his neighbor.

Meekness and humility, though related, must not be confused. Humility is one’s attitude under duress toward one’s neighbor. Meekness is the safety catch on the trigger of self-conceit or self-opinion. In a word, in life’s situations humility watches over one’s attitude toward his neighbor; meekness takes care of self. Meekness, then, is gentle, not provoked, indulgent of others, but always watchful over self-opinion. Then, no matter what is said, done, or thought by others, meekness controls the personal reaction, anger, etc., and arouses the power of the soul only when a principle of God is attacked. 2

St. Thomas teaches, “Meekness then moderates the passion of anger according to the dictates of reason, and calms the desire for revenge. It restrains one from wanting to Inflict Injury for Injury. It enables one, relying on the Father's Will, to remain Tranquil in the face of Wrongs done him/her.” Saint Paul stressed the need of this Virtue in his Letter to the Thessalonians: "See that none of you repays Evil for Evil, but always seeks to do Good to one another and to all" (1Thessalonians 5:15).” 5

Living out meekness, St. Catherine Laboure was a young and devout nun.  She was humble, gentle, and devout.  She was granted beautiful visions from our Blessed Mother in which Our Lady asked  St. Catherine “to make a medal to promote devotions to the heart of Jesus and his mother.“ 12 After time had passed, the medal was created and distributed.  From the medal, many miracles of faith and healing occurred. “Within a few years, the miraculous medal had spread all over the country and it is still being used as an object of devotion and obedience in the faith all over the world to this very day! Saint Catherine led a quiet and humble life of prayers as a Daughter of Charity, caring for the aged and the infirm, and she died at 70 years old in her convent, with no public recognition for herself. Many in the convent did not even know it was Catherine to whom the medal had been revealed.  But even from the silent walls of the Rue du Bac Convent, she had managed to spread the love of Christ around her.” 12 

To be meek, in the vocation of wife and mother, is then temper our love of self, for the betterment of our neighbor, most often our husband and children.  Being meek enough to take loving reproof, even outright criticism without the response of anger or retaliation, rather with humble acceptance.  “Be silent when your speech will make another unhappy.  Remember, all men search for happiness, or beatitude.”  2 The only time we are to act counter to this is if a principle of God is attacked. 

“Be tolerant, for you are a magnet attracting those around you.  Act with no hypocrisy or artificiality; mingle the love of your souls with the lives of others.  This is controlled love of self’; this is the happiness found in meekness.” 2
Sources –
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


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