This week around the dinner table, our family has been discussing the Beatitudes. In Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality, she gives us a list of the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3-10)
According to O’Boyle’s book, the word beatitude means “a state of deep joy and happiness”. So my challenge has been to explain to my children how things like persecution, mourning, and poverty will make them happy.
The secret is in the seeking.
We must teach our children, both by word and example, a zeal for the faith–a burning desire to bring others closer to Christ. I found I was asking myself things like, “Do my children see me praying often enough? Do I talk frequently with them about how to speak up for what they believe in? Do I find ways for them to actively live out the Beatitudes?”
This week, our family focused on two of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” and “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”.
One of our dear school teachers lost her husband this week after a long, hard battle with cancer. Discussing his passing in light of the Beatitudes gave my children a deeper understanding of the importance of comforting and praying for their teacher and her husband. Our whole family attended the Rosary–something I might not have normally had the courage to do with all six kids! But the simple teaching in O’Boyle’s book helped even our youngest children to understand that praying the Rosary was a way to provide comfort to a friend who was mourning.
The second Beatitude we focused on, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” sparked an especially good conversation point with my 13-year-old. I had heard recently from a mom-friend that some students in my teenage son’s Catholic school class were talking about abortion and suggesting that it was acceptable. My friend and I weren’t totally sure where this idea was coming from, or how many students were talking about it, but it made me realize that my husband and I need to be having the abortion conversation with our children before their peers do!
It’s so easy to assume that when our children attend Catholic school, go to Mass regularly, and associate with other Catholic families, that they “just know” where the Church stands on big issues like abortion. But we, as parents, need to teach them these principles. My husband and I try to foster a culture of life within our home and family, but our children still need to hear Church teaching clearly in conversation with us.
My son said he hadn’t heard any talk about abortion from his classmates, but I still started a conversation with him about the gravity of abortion and how important it is to speak up if you ever hear anyone condoning it.
Pro-life activist Monica Miller told a story in one of her talks at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference this summer. She was getting ready to board a plane when she spotted someone who had a notorious career as an abortionist just feet away from her. She said she wasn’t sure what to say to him, but she knew she had to say something. She walked up to him, handed him her recently published pro-life book (Abandoned: The Untold Story Of The Abortion Wars), and simply told him that he had to stop what he was doing. Perhaps she hadn’t convinced him to change his ways by the end of their conversation, but what courage! She couldn’t NOT say anything! And hopefully she planted a small seed of conversion in his heart.
These are the types of children we need to be raising. After all, they are the next generation of voices for the voiceless. When my children are tempted to remain silent or are fearful of how others will respond, I want them to feel like Jeremiah when he was tempted not to speak of Jesus: “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” (Jer 20:9)
It should be more difficult for our children to remain silent about Jesus than to speak of Him. This is the seeking that will make them happy in spite of persecution. This is the purpose that will drive them even when their goal seems impossible. A discontent with sin will motivate them to seek what truly satisfies–to comfort those who mourn, to fight for justice for the most vulnerable, and to restlessly pursue the rest of the Beatitudes until, one day, their hearts finally rest in God.
Copyright Charisse Tierney 2017