Yesterday I gave a talk at Our Lady or Lourdes Church with the above title. The title comes from Chapter 3 of Pope Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exultate (in English, Rejoice and Be Glad), promulgated earlier this year on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. As is true of everything this Pope writes, the document evidences his formation in Ignatian Spirituality, which is an apostolic one, that is, a spirituality that emphasizes the experience of being sent forth by God to act on behalf of the neighbor in witness to the Gospel and in imitation of Jesus’ life.
My talk shared some of my own and Francis’ observations about each of the Beatitudes. And, given our proximity to All Saints Day, I gave examples of saints that I thought embodied each of the Beatitudes. Following are my examples; perhaps a good exercise in these days leading up to All Saints Day would be to see who you would consider a good embodiment of each.
Poverty of spirit – Ignatius of Loyola; Francis of Assisi
Meekness – Therese of Lisieux
They who mourn – Oscar Romero; Damien of Molokoi
Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – Teresa of Avila
Merciful (which Pope Francis sees as embodying service as well as forgiveness) – Vincent dePaul
Peacemakers – Dorothy Day
Near the end of my talk, I also shared Pope Francis’ observations about ideologies that seek to undercut what Jesus calls us to in the Beatitudes. First, he speaks of the error of “those Christians “who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace.” The examples he gives of saints who understood that their prayer and love of God did not detract from their commitment to their neighbors are St. Francis, St. Vincent and St. Teresa of Calcutta.
The second ideological error the Pope identified is “those who suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist.” Or, he says, they relativize it, suggesting it is less important than other issues. But life is life. So while defense of the innocent and unborn must be vigorous, “equally sacred…are the lives of the poor, the destitute, the abandoned, the vulnerable etc.” Holiness, he says, cannot ignore injustice and suffering anywhere.