In keeping with the Synod resolutions, the Archdiocese has embarked on the Third Pastoral Priority – Regenerating the Moral and Spiritual Values of our Society.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts the Beatitudes at the beginning of the section on Moral Living. The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching.
In Matthew’s Beatitudes we have a description of discipleship, a snapshot of the desired outcome of all our catechesis: people who live with God/Christ/Spirit at the centre of their lives and whose lives provide salt, light and leaven for the life of the world. The integrity and authenticity in their discipleship lead them to be peacemakers; to suffer rejection for righteousness’ sake; to bring to the world purity of heart, mercy and, above all, love.
We have to LIVE the Beatitudes and TEACH the Beatitudes to our classes. The good news of the Beatitudes falls often on deaf ears, perhaps because it is so countercultural. How then do we convey the message so it is heard, understood, and integrated into life?
Here are some ideas. But they will be most effective only after young people fully understand and can explain the Beatitudes in their own language.
- Study the Saints. The saints led lives of virtue. They made choices to love, serve and respect others and to be faithful to God in all things. Encountering saints can lead you to lives guided by the Beatitudes. Especially nowadays our young people are bombarded by many negative messages and models. Our Church has a rich store of positive models. Have your class research saints who lived countercultural lives. St Francis of Assisi is a particularly good example of a person who rejected wealth and lived a life of joy, freedom and true happiness. Have them find others. There are many saints who were faced with moral dilemmas and chose to die rather than compromise their values, e.g. Maria Goretti, Maximilian Kolbe, and St Joseph (husband of Mary) who faced a very difficult moral challenge.
- Study modern-day saintly persons: although these may not yet be canonised saints, nevertheless they exemplify the Beatitudes. Persons like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, etc. Consider personal stories that contrast with the conventional assumptions about success and making money and point instead to a life in Christ. Have your class search out persons in the community or in the world who were peacemakers, who suffered for the sake of their moral stances, who chose to work for the betterment of others rather than to work in high-paying jobs.
- Find examples in their own families of persons who exemplified Beatitude living. Invite the young people to choose a member of their family and decide which Beatitude that person best exemplifies. Have them write an explanation of how the person lives the Beatitude.
- Nurture stillness: children need to be taught to go within to find God in their own selves….away from the “noise” of modern-day life, of cellphones and social networks. There is so much noise around us that we often cannot hear ourselves talk, far less hear God talking to us. A group of persons here in Trinidad have gone around to some primary schools and taught them “Centering Prayer”. They report that young children very quickly pick up the mechanics of the prayer and love it. It teaches us to be still within and without. Do some homework on this and teach your children to “be still and know that I am God”.
- Have students write short scenarios about each Beatitude and have them act them out.
- Lenten activities. Have the children choose an activity they can do for Lent based on a Beatitude
- Examination of conscience.Have the children prepare an examination of conscience based on the Beatitudes. Emphasise not only how they have sinned but also how they are following Christ and how they might do better.
N. B. We do not “do” the Beatitudes as if they were a set of moral prescriptions. They are what God does in us as we grow in Christ and become his heart and his hands.
(Some ideas in this article were taken from “Character Formation: the Foundation for Living the Beatitudes”, Catechist Magazine, October 2010, pages 48 – 52.)
Sr Marie Young
Archdiocesan Catechetical Office