Summer Beatitudes Project: The First Three Beatitudes

3 floors drawing

The Three Floors

In his book Keys to the Third Floor, Father Philip Dion explains the viewpoint of St. Thomas Aquinas that living the first three beatitudes removes the obstacles to virtue, while the rest of the beatitudes help us to positively build virtue.

The first three beatitudes convey a message rooted in the Theology of the Body:

“Love people, use things.”

The first three beatitudes root out the vices that inhibit us from seeing the needs of others clearly, and from accurately discerning the will of God.

First Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“The first obstacle to the attaining of true happiness, according to St. Thomas, is the inordinate desire for possessions and riches, honors and reputation.” Father Dion, Keys to the Third Floor

or as I explained it to my children:

We will never be truly happy if we are only living on the “second floor”–if we just want to look good by having all of the best toys, the latest video games, or the coolest clothes.

Practice being “poor in spirit” with your children and donate some toys and clothes to a local charity.  Encourage your children to donate one or two items that they like, but don’t really need. Praise them for loving people in need more than they love their things.

Second Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.”

“When something interferes with our attaining of riches or reputation, the result is anger.  So, to control these movements of anger and desire for revenge, Christ gave us the second beatitude.” Father Dion, Keys to the Third Floor

or as I explained it to my children:

Sometimes we feel very angry when someone says something mean about us, or takes our favorite toy without asking, or breaks our latest LEGO creation.  Anger is very powerful.  It can make us want to kick or hit or scream.  But we must try to use the power of anger for good.  Walk away when you are very angry, take a deep breath, and try to calm down.  Then use those powerful feelings to think of a good way to talk to the person who made you angry.  Ask Mom or Dad if you need help.  Remember that the person who made you angry is always more important than the mean words that were said, the toy that got taken, or the LEGO creation that got broken.

Step in quickly when you can see a child’s anger escalating.  Hug your child, guide him away from the provoking situation, and help him to deal with the conflict in a peaceful way when he is ready.

Third Beatitude: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

“Next in the obstacles to true happiness is the excessive desire for sensual pleasure, the desire to have comfort, sensible satisfactions, a good time.  To mourn, in this sense, according to St. Thomas, means to be without pleasure.” Father Dion, Keys to the Third Floor

or as I explained it to my children:

When we live on the “first floor”, we only want to feel good.  We want things that make us feel happy, even if they aren’t really good for us.  It’s like eating too much candy.  At first it tastes good and we feel happy, but if we keep eating it, we start to feel sick.  If someone takes our candy away before we make ourselves sick, we might feel sad for awhile.  But aren’t we glad later on when we don’t have a tummy ache?  Sometimes, we miss the things we sacrifice for God.  But He promises that if we do His will, we will feel happier than we could have ever imagined.  This is being glad.  This is real joy.

Encourage your children to make some small sacrifice for God.  They could give up dessert, spend some time playing with a younger sibling when they would rather be doing something else, or do an extra chore.  Talk with them about how they felt during this process.  Point out that joy doesn’t always mean jumping up and down with happiness, but, rather, a peaceful sense of having done the right thing.

These three beatitudes help us to move past the seeking of our own will and open the door to obedience–to the desire to do the will of the One who can show us the way to true joy.

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About Charisse Tierney

Charisse Tierney lives in Newton, Kansas, with her husband and five children: Owen, James, Hazel, Henry, and Faith. Charisse and her husband, Rob, teach Natural Family Planning for the Couple to Couple League and have experience teaching Theology of the Body for Teens to high school and middle school students through their parish in Kansas. Charisse holds bachelor and master degrees in music performance. A professionally trained clarinetist and pianist, Charisse has always held a deep love for writing and her Catholic faith. Charisse is the Assistant Editor at Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, catholicap.com and can also be found at catholicmom.com
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