Beatitude Eight: Blessed are the persecuted (Upcoming)

Oct 29 – Saturday (9am Pacific – 12pm Eastern)
TBD, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Beatitude Seven: Blessed are the peacemakers

Sept 10 – Saturday (10am Pacific – 1pm Eastern)
Carolyn Townes, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Summary of Session:

Blessed Are the Peacemakers
For They Shall Be Called Sons of God
September 10, 2022

We gathered as a national fraternity on September 10 to pray and reflect upon this seventh Beatitude. Deep gratitude to Carolyn Townes, OFS, National JPIC Animator who so beautifully animated our gathering.

Dear Carolyn began our reflection on this seventh Beatitude by reminding us that seven is the number of perfection. How is God calling us to perfection? What is the path? He gives us a very clear path – to follow and live out the first six Beatitudes. If we are poor in spirit and practice being poor in spirit, mourn, are meek, hunger and thirst to be in right relationship with God, ourselves, each other, and all of creation, and practice being pure in heart, we are preparing ourselves to come to the fullness of the teachings from our Lord, and become peacemakers. The following summarizes briefly this deep and profound message.

The Beatitudes are a gift from God. God has given them to us. It is our work to open our hands, hearts, and lives to receive them. When a friend gives us a gift we do not hide it and put it on a shelf. We thank the giver and use the gift, giving gratitude always to the giver. We are called to receive and use the gift of the Beatitudes in order to become more like Christ, the one who sent us.
In the ancient Jewish culture in which our Lord lived, the word Shalom, offered often and generously, meant the highest peace. It is not the absence of war or conflict, but an expressed desire for the other to receive the highest good, God’s great good. To receive the gift, we invite Christ into our very selves and fill us with his Peace.

We then become bearers of peace. Not simply doing peaceful things, having peaceful thoughts, seeking peaceful reconciliations of conflicts, but bearing peace in our very being, and carrying God’s peace into the world. Therefore, we begin by opening to God’s peace that He placed in our hearts and continues to nurture in us. Then we move out into the world in all of our daily activities, carrying that peace. When one enters as a peacemaker into any situation, one carries a light and an energy that immediately has a positive effect upon whatever is happening. St. Francis told us to teach and preach peace by being peace.

In our group discussions, we identified barriers to becoming peacemakers: distractions, business, judgements, lack of forgiveness, pride, holding onto what we think of as “wrongs” of the other person, lack of patience, lack of humility, thinking we are right, and our way is the right way. And as a group we concluded that Jesus is the source of peace. We pray to receive His guidance and strength to be peacemakers.
Mary Bittner offered us a joyful, hopeful story in conclusion. When fighting or contention break out, we pay that someone will holler “Go get the Franciscan!”

Deep gratitude to all who brought their prayers and thoughtful reflections to this gathering. Deep gratitude to Carolyn for giving us so much to consider moving forward.

Respectfully Sent with Blessings.
Peace and All Good.
Patricia Grace, OFS

Beatitude Six: Blessed are the pure in heart

Aug 27 – Saturday (10am Pacific – 1pm Eastern)
Laura Chun, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Summary of Session:

Blessed are the Pure in Heart For they shall see God

Summary of A Year of Hope: Living the Beatitudes

August 27, 2022

We gathered as a Franciscan Family for a reflection of the sixth Beatitude as found in Matthew 5:3 and in Luke 6:20. Laura Chun, OFS, Minister of Mission San Luis Rey Fraternity in the St. Francis Region led us in our reflection. A short summary follows.

Laura began by reminding us that the Lord loves the pure in heart, a reminder from Proverbs 22:11. We joined our voices to sing Ubi Caritas and moved to opening prayer. Our gathering prayer was inspired by the reflections found in the book, A Listening Heart – Sacred Teachings on the Beatitudes by Josephine Matranga, OFS. Sisters and brothers from around the country shared the blessed task of serving as lectors, reading parts of the prayer with the gathered. I will include the prayer at the end of this summary.

We are called in Chapter 2, Article 11 of our Rule to be pure of heart. Our Constitutions, specifically Article 15. 4 tells us that we “…should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity.” Laura shared with us that Fr. Alonso de Blas, OFM, teaches us that in the Beatitudes the Lord is calling us above and beyond liturgical purity achieved by ritual ablution, that if we are pure of heart our lives will be shaped by honesty, integrity, and genuine loyalty to God.

How do we enter into Purity of Heart? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches three stages of the journey: purgative, illuminative, unitive. Laura explained that in the purgative stage, we begin our ascent up the spiritual mountain by confessing our sins and praying to turn away from all sin. In the illuminative stage we engage in an active practice of the Catholic virtues. Through this practice and with God’s grace, we can begin to see the world and others through the eyes of God, through the eyes of Love. We paused to pray:

“Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119, 1-2, 7, 16-18

In the final unitive stage, we become aware of God’s presence at all times, even in the midst of daily activities. We seek to see and love God in all things and do His will always. St. Paul teaches us “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20). We looked again at Psalm 24, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Father Michael Crosby teaches that we see the fullness of Christ in his transfiguration. There, Jesus’ external appearance evidenced the interior transforming presence within him.

“A pure heart is the fruit of a new creation; only God’s power and grace can give purity of heart, reorienting human hearts fully to God. Purity of heart is linked to the idea of a renewed and strengthened spirit which has decided to believe, to hope, and to love again: here is the essence of purity of heart.” Father Jacque Philippe, The Eight Doors of the Kingdom, page 170.

We broke into ten groups and discussed the following four questions: 1.What does ‘Pure of Heart’ mean to you? 2. What hinders you from that? 3. How can you move closer toward Pureness of Heart? 4.What spiritual practices may help you? We then shared our rich reflections in the large group. In brief, pure of heart means that we have our hearts in God, doing His Holy will in all things. Judgement, busyness, distractions, pride, and lack of humility sometimes may hinder us. But we seek always to move closer toward purity of heart and engage in spiritual practices to nurture this desire. Our practices are, of course, rooted in prayer, and include participation in the Sacraments, practicing daily prayers such as Liturgy of the Hours, engaging in an end of the day examination of conscience, spiritual sojourning with others, and journaling.

Laura suggested that our “homework” is to create a calligraphy, summarizing our reflections. She provided us with this example. You are all invited to send it to Patricia at patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com and we will begin our gathering on September 10 by sharing your submissions with those gathered.

Deep gratitude to Laura for a wonderful reflection and to all of you who gathered and those who are now reading this summary. Praise be to God. May the Lord Give You Peace.

Peace and All Good,

Patricia Grace, OFS

______________________________________________________________________________

A Prayer:

Loving God, help us to grow in love through our prayers and reflections with the Beatitudes Poverty of Spirit: We pray for grace to trust in God’s unconditional love.

Mourning our sins: We pray to be truly contrite of heart and for the grace of repentance Meekness: We pray for the grace of humility and a courageous spirit, remembering that without God’s grace we can do nothing (John 15:5)

Hunger & Thirst: We pray to long for the righteousness of God who knows all things and who grants wisdom and light. Merciful: We pray for the grace to extend mercy to others because we have received mercy by the forgiveness of our sins.

Peacemaker: We pray for the grace to become a peacemaker both actively and interiorly; actively by rebuking the evil in the world; interiorly by prayer (John 14:27)

Persecution: Informed through Scriptures, we pray for the assistance of God’s angles to fight for the persecuted here in this life, keeping in mind that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord in eternity. Psalm 23, Ephesians 6:10-17, Philippians 2:6-11

Pure of heart: Pray for the grace to no longer desire worldly praise, rather to be concerned to love, honor and serve our heavenly King. We ask these things Through Christ our Lord.

Amen

Beatitude Five: Blessed are the merciful

July 30 – Saturday (9am Pacific – 12pm Eastern)
Penny Hill, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Summary of Session:

Blessed Are the Merciful, For They Shall Obtain Mercy
July 30, 2022

We gathered as a national fraternity on July 30 to pray and reflect upon this fifth Beatitude. Deep gratitude to Penny Hill, OFS, St. Francis Region, who so beautifully animated our gathering.

We began with an opening prayer and slide presentation taken from and based on St. Faustina’s Diary as she is certainly a true apostle of mercy. The prayer describes all aspects of mercy. Penny then quoted William Shakespeare to lead us in a reflection on the qualities of mercy. “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest.” (The Merchant of Venice)

Penny then called us to consider, “The purifying action of water is repeated again and again throughout our Faith- first in the gentle action of Baptism. The water and the spoken words cleanse the soul of the effects of original sin and open the doors to salvation. It is expressed again in our study of the Beatitudes. The graces obtained in the total surrender to the will of God in POVERTY OF SPIRIT act as that gentle rain, MERCY, so freely given us by Jesus. Just as the MOURNING of our, and others, failures and losses are nurtured by HOPE in God’s goodness, and the patience and endurance expressed by the MEEK during life’s trials, continue the cleansing action grace in the soul. Shakespeare metaphorizes this purifying action of water, “the gentle rain that droppeth”, in the merging of justice and mercy in fostering forgiving relationships with others.”

St. Faustina describes mercy as an endless ocean, and our Lord calls us to be oceans of mercy, forgiving all, loving all, serving all. “ God’s plan originates from his merciful love for us shown through the Incarnation of Christ, his life and ministry, and climaxed by the Passion and Resurrection. His example is in turn carried out by us through prayer, obedience to God’s will for us, and response to the voice of the Holy Spirit, our vocational guide. Each day brings fresh new mercy and opportunities to show this mercy to others. Every day we fall short in the practice of mercy which becomes part of the daily conversion required by Article 7 of the Rule.”

Penny then called us to remember that all of life is interconnected. Scripture tells us not to judge or condemn, but be open and merciful to all. (Luke 6: 36-39) “: Deep meaningful words indeed. If we close our hearts to others through preconceived opinions, prejudice or bias, even ignorance, we are automatically closing our hearts to God and his grace, while opening our hearts to another through information seeking and dialogue, we open our hearts to God and his abundant blessings which will be measured out according to our attitudes toward our neighbor. We see that mercy is far more than forgiveness for a wrong. It involves as in the other Beatitudes the restoration of right relationships. This includes an endless list of political, social, economic, and environmental needs which involve far more than those of my immediate family and spread in the well known ripple effect phenomenon through out the world- and especially the disadvantaged with limited resources. Michael Crosby in his Spirituality of the Beatitudes describes the ripple effect in the acts of mercy in his CIRCLE OF CARE which addresses the Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy.. I like to think of this circle as the CIRCLE OF MERCY. This CIRCLE involves:

1. A way of seeing and recognizing the need and pain in the world,
2. which moves our hearts in care and compassion
3. in a way that finds us working not just to alleviate these forms of hurt and alienation, but making sure that those suffering may never do so again.

This Circle exemplifies the Fourth Beatitude, “the hunger and thirst for righteousness”
Which we learned from Susan Tabor’ reflection, is best defined as “right relationship.

“The best recent example of this CIRCLE is defined by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudate Si. It painstakingly describes our world- threats and actual dangers to creation, the need for right relationships to address the needs, and a plan to begin a resolution of the many complex issues the world faces. So how do we as an individual drop, a single ripple, work through our family, parish, fraternity, and community relationships to become a part of that “ocean of mercy”? (Penny Hill)

We begin with Jesus and the Our Father, the prayer He taught us which we still recite daily. We follow the golden rule. And we turn to scripture for guidance. Penny then called us to reflect upon the following: The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Calling of Matthew, and The Good Samaritan. We broke into groups to discuss and reflect, then gathered again to share.

We ended in prayer and joy. Our closing prayer, For The Grace To Be Merciful to Others, was also taken from St. Faustina’s Diary as it truly describes our mission as Secular Franciscans and that “gentle drop of rain”, mercy, which we impart to others.

Note: All taken or paraphrased from Penny Hill. Thank you! Many blessings!

Beatitude Four: Blessed are those who hunger

June 18 – Saturday (9am Pacific – 12pm Eastern)
Susan Tabor, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Summary of Session:

The Fourth Beatitude

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”—Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 6

Primary Sources: Scripture and Commentaries

With the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, mourning becomes a blessing because the mourners will be comforted  God does the comforting through the Spirit, through the Word, through the work God does in and through others.  The affliction/sorrow of mourning thus becomes a profound relationship with God.  That is a blessing indeed.  In touching our pain, God transforms sadness into joy, fear into hope, etc., blessing us.  Thus we get a glimpse of the transforming work God can do in our lives and relationships.

So in understanding the fourth Beatitude, we continue that movement into saying “Yes” to transformation; to day-to-day conversion.  Understanding the fourth Beatitude turns on understanding what Jesus meant by the word “righteousness.”  In ancient Judaism, righteousness meant “to acquit, vindicate, restore to a right relationship.”  (12) The righteous, then, are those who maintain right relationships with God, with the people in their lives and with their world. As a Franciscan, I find this perspective to be very exciting, is right relationship is what Franciscans are all about.

Based on right relationships, those who commit infractions are acquitted of guilt.  Have you received the blessing of being filled with right relationships? It flows from the third Beatitude, meekness, because we can only form right relationships with others when we cease making all of our actions revolve around ourselves.

Do you hunger for right relationships? Hunger is a sign of life, as is thirst, and the experience of hunger and thirst, experienced alone or together, can themselves be physically very intense and can produce a yearning like no other.  Do we yearn for right relationships with the same profound intensity and power?

We are genuinely hungering for good relationships when we yearn for others for their own sake, not just as a snack food for meeting our own needs.  If we see that we have God’s grace for this, we will hunger and thirst for right relationships, not only with God, but with the people with whom we work and live.  If we live in right relationship, we live in righteousness; it is right with our world.

Jesus says that those who have this hunger and thirst for righteousness will have their appetites filled.  It is easy to see wrongs in our work places and our world and to want to do battle and fix them.  Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is wanting/yearning to see wrongs righted.

The Christian faith has been the source of many of the greatest reforms in the world, e.g., perhaps the most notable being the abolition of slavery in Great Britain and the U.S., and the genesis of the civil rights movement.  But again, the flow of the Beatitudes is important.

For instance, we do not take on these battles in our own strength, but only in recognition of our own emptiness, mourning our own lack of righteousness; and thereby submitting our power to God.

If you are touched/blessed with sorrow for your own failings (the second Beatitude), and with right relationships (the fourth Beatitude), you will not find it difficult to show mercy to people at work or anywhere else.

Mercy consists of treating people better than they deserve from us.  Forgiveness is a type of mercy.  So is aiding someone we have no obligation to help, or forbearing to exploit someone’s vulnerability.  Mercy, in all these senses, is the driving force of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection.  Through him, our sins are forgiven and we receive aid by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.  The Spirit’s reason for showing us this mercy is that God loves us.  It’s all about love.

What is righteousness?  (Matthew Ch17, V5-48)  It is problematic to equate righteousness with external piety, a common understanding of the word “righteousness”, both now and in the past.  But righteousness throughout the Bible always denotes right relationships, both with God and with the people around us.  Jesus also asks us to approach our gifts with humility, taking care to remember whose we are and from whom those gifts are given to us.

This becomes clearer in illustrations that follow.  In Matthew Chapter 5, verses 20-26, it is not enough to not murder someone; we must also guard our hearts and spirits against harboring anger that leads to insults and broken relationships.  We may feel anger, but the right way to handle anger is to try to resolve conflict (Matthew Ch15, V19), not to push the person away with insults or slander.  Jesus is clear that a right relationship between you and your brother or sister is so vital that some religious practices should be delayed until you have cleared up the matter between the two of you.  Engaging in fair, open conflict resolution is the way of the New Kingdom, though it may put you in a position of humility.  Humility is a teacher.  And again, blessed are the peacemakers.

Rather than retribution, Jesus sets out a process by which one-on-one reconciliation is sought.  The Beatitude of meekness means putting aside your self-justification long enough to express yourself respectfully and factually to the one who has hurt you, and to open yourself to their perspective.  This does not mean submitting to further abuse, but opening yourself to the possibility that your perspective is not universal.  If that doesn’t resolve it, you move on through the process Christ sets out, taking others with you, etc.  Every step of the way, prayerful, mindful listening is key to our practice of love.

Servant leadership is addressed in Matthew Chapter 20, verses 20-28.  True leadership is found in serving others.  The servant is the one who knows his or her spiritual poverty (Matthew Ch5, V3), and exercises power under God’s control (Matthew Ch5, V5) to maintain right relationships.  The servant leader apologizes for mistakes (Matthew Ch5, V4), shows mercy when others fail (Matthew Ch5, V7), makes peace when possible (Matthew Ch5, V9), and endures unmerited criticism when attempting to serve God (Matthew Ch5, V10) with integrity (Matthew Ch5, V8).

The principle/Beatitude of living in right relationship can apply to our relationship to God, with other people,  with people, our relationship to our earth (God’s Creation), and our relationship with the practice of our faith, with the living out the tenets of our faith and in living out our Franciscan vocation. Let us move forward, transforming our lives by living in the fullness of right relationship.

Reflection Questions

  • Can it be problematic to equate righteousness with external piety? Please explain.
  • Identify an example from your life in which living righteously (in right relationship) enhanced your experience or your understanding of joy.
  • Does living righteously present challenges for you? What are they?

Susan Tabor, Ofs.,

June 18, 2022

Beatitude Three: Blessed are the meek

May 21 – Saturday (10am Pacific – 1pm Eastern)
Patricia Grace, OFS – Guide for discussion

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Summary of Session:

Blessed Are the Meek

May 21, 2022

We gathered by ZOOM on May 21 for an hour of prayer, reflection, and discussion on this third of the Beatitudes. We began in prayers to our Gracious and Loving Father, the giver of all good gifts, seeking Divine guidance, courage, and strength to understand more deeper and embrace more fully the teachings of Jesus, our Lord, Savior and Redeemer, ‘Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.’

In the everyday language, we often think of “meek” as weak. But as we turn to the life of Jesus, we see that meekness is the principal quality of His soul. We look to His birth in the manger, the journey of the holy family as refugees to Egypt after His birth, His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, as His death on the cross, to see holy meekness as tender, kind, humble, patient, benevolent, forbearing, forgetting of self for the sake of the other. Above all, meekness is reverent, holding all of creation in deep reverence, for it was all created by God.

For guidance we look to our Lord incarnate and see that meekness is not weak but bold. But not bold for its own sake or the sake of the one acting, but for the sake of our Lord. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of my Father” and He did it boldly, proclaiming the Good News throughout all the lands. Love one another. Love. We are called, then, to understand that to be meek is to bring our will under the will of God.

We then moved on to examine what events, or emotions, or situations challenge a tender, kind, gentle, reverent response to life. We shared how anger, even if “righteous,” pride or ego, even if we believe we are “right,” and self-doubt, even if humble, can stand between us and aligning our will with the will of God. And then, of course, fear. We reflected on how our Beloved Saint Francis had to face his fear and embrace the leper since he discerned God’s will for him to embrace and serve the most marginalized and rejected children of God in medieval Assisi. St. Francis also had to face his fear, his justifiable fear, when he went to talk to the Sultan in Damietta during the Crusades. God sent him. He went. He aligned his will with the will of God.

We reflected, then, on how meekness will bring joy. St. Francis taught us that perfect joy is not to be made into great healers and be able to make the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear. It is not to be great scholars and know all sciences and be able to explain all scripture. It is not even to be great preachers and bring all others to the faith. No, St. Francis says, perfect joy is to be trembling from cold, exhausted from walking, injured by curses, blows, and beatings, and rejected by even your own brothers and accept it all, receiving the grace to overcome the self, and walk forth in faith, trust, and love of our Lord.  We ended in prayer.

“Let me realize that when I am humble and when I am meek, I am most human, most truthful, most reverent, and most truly Yours. Amen.”

Peace and All Good                                                  Patricia Grace, OFS

Beatitude Two: Blessed are those who mourn

April 30 – Saturday (12pm Pacific – 3pm Eastern)
Carolyn Townes, OFS – Guide for discussion

Summary of Session:

Spirituality and JPIC: The Beatitudes

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Opening Prayer:

Lord God, you are attentive to the voice of our pleading.

Your Son, Jesus assured us that when we mourn, we will be comforted.
Let us find in your Son and our Savior
comfort in our sadness, certainty in our doubt,
and courage to live through our darkest hour.
Make our faith strong through Christ out Lord, Amen.

In the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” I love the Message translation which says: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

The world does not reward the kind of living Jesus is talking about, but God does! The world says are you blessed when all your dreams come true. You are blessed when everything goes your way. Jesus said happy are the sad and blessed are the broken-hearted.

What I particularly love about this beatitude is that Jesus does not say that we should not mourn, he says we are blessed when we mourn. And when we mourn, we will be comforted. The interesting thing is you are comforted when you mourn, but not when you grieve. Mourning happens in public – during the initial stages of loss, at the public displays of the loss, i.e., the funeral. It is acceptable to mourn because everyone mourns together. But what happens after the funeral, after everyone goes home and you are still left with your loss? Then, you are expected, like everyone else, to get over and get on with life. But those of us who have experienced a personal loss, know that is not the case. We are left with the void, the emptiness, the deep sorrow that the world does not want to see.

But each and every one of us has a story – a story of a personal loss. Be it, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, the loss of a beloved pet, the loss of your health, the loss of your identity, the loss of your safety and security, the loss of a relationship, and the list goes one. Each one of these losses is personal and unique to the individual. No two people grieve alike – even if the loss seems the same. Two mothers, both loss children. They will both grieve that loss, but they will not grieve that loss the same – because their relationships with their children was unique to each of them. So, it is never helpful to say to someone, “I know how you feel!” No, you don’t know how anyone else feels.

Those who mourn and grieve, are often the forgotten. They look fine. There are no visible scars. They look just like everyone else. But the scars and the wounds that permeate their living, moving and being are scars and wounds not visible with the naked eye. They are the scars and wounds that pierce the soul – each and every day. And you must release these feelings that keep those wounds alive and festering.

It is when you speak of these wounds and hurts with a trusted person, that healing begins. The Psalmist prayed, “When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep down inside me. I moaned all day long” (Ps. 32:3). An old adage says when you share your grief, it is halved. But when you share your joy, it is doubled. In order to be comforted, to feel comforted, you must share your grief, your hurts, your sorrows with someone who will receive them with love and care. Grief never goes away. You grieve to the extent that you love. The hurt softens but the loss is always felt.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. God uses tears to heal our broken hearts. Well-meaning people may say, “Don’t cry,” but the Apostle Paul said to weep, but not as those who have no hope. Peter, Isaiah, King David, and others grieved over their sins and failings. Jeremiah wept over a nation. Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. We should be saddened by the things that sadden God.

You have heard it said that God turns our pain into our purpose; our mess into our message; and our test into our testimony. You have heard mine today and I pray that the Holy Spirit grant you the grace to turn your pain and sorrow into the joy of helping others. Never allow your sorrow to turn into bitterness and despair. Always remember, we are an Easter people, a Resurrection people, a people of hope. And God blesses those who mourn, giving them comfort and respite when they need it most.

© 2022 Carolyn D. Townes, OFS

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Beatitude One: Blessed are the poor in spirit

March 26 – Saturday (2pm Pacific – 5pm Eastern)
Donna Hollis, OFS – Guide for discussion

Summary of Session:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We gathered as a Franciscan Family for a reflection of this first Beatitude as found in Matthew 5:3 and in Luke 6:20. Donna Hollis, OFS, National Councilor, led us in our reflection. A short summary follows.

In the opening prayer, reminded us that our Lord’s steadfast love endures forever. We prayed to place our trust in Him as we face our challenges and trials. We lifted up those who are downtrodden and prayed that Our Lord will give hope to the weary, help to the poor, comfort to the afflicted. We prayed to be worthy servants and messengers of love and peace, nurtured by the indwelling Holy Spirit within each of us.

Donna then reflected that the word “hope” has been a constant for her during the two years of Covid. The word signaled to her that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. She then offered for our consideration that our hope is built in the rediscovery of our brothers and sisters, realizing that we are all interconnected and necessary in the Kingdom of God. God is our source of hope and we can find true joy in our relationship with Him and in our relationships with others. Donna reminded us that the Christmas letter from our Ministers General called us to know that Hope is bold, it speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our hearts.

The Beatitudes are at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus spoke them to us as map to him. To be Poor in Spirit is to know our own poverty, and to recognize our need for God. Our treasure is found in God’s faithfulness and love. Our poverty of spirit is a deeper understanding and surrender to our total dependence before God. Our God is a kind, loving and generous God who wants to give everything to us and to all of His children. We are called to be alert to the needs of others, to know and embrace that we are members of the whole human family, and to pray, as St. Francis did, that God may show us what we are to do to serve Him and His kingdom.

Donna then divided us into small groups to reflect upon the opportunities we have to serve those in need, to ask us to consider seeing the whole person in need, not just the need, to think on how we can encourage and animate so as to give the person in need strength for the journey, and to consider what help we need from God to carry forth His love and protection into the world. Finally, how would each of us personalize this Beatitude, allowing it to serve as guidance to us on our journey of faith?

Our closing prayer was Be Thou My Vision as sung by Nathan Pacheco. In conclusion, Donna reminded us:

“Be strong, be very strong. Take courage in being courageous with your actions, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

How wonderful it was to gather on February 19 and begin our Year of Hope, studying, praying, reflecting upon, and living the Beatitudes. I so look forward to the rest of the year.

There is so much written about these wonderful words of Jesus. We will be focusing on the Beatitudes as found in the Gospel of Matthew. I suggest we work from the book by Father Jacques Philippe: The Eight Doors of the Kingdom, published in 2018 by Scepter Publications.

Father Michael Crosby, OFM Cap has also written a wonderful book on the Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthew’s Vision for the Church in an Unjust World.

One of our sisters brought to my attention Our Holy Father Pope Francis’ reflections on the Beatitudes. POPE FRANCIS GENERAL AUDIENCE from the Library of the Apostolic Palace. I am attaching them here and below.

Of course, we will read and reflect upon the Beatitudes as found in scripture. So, dear sisters and brothers, feel free to read, reflect, or engage in whatever spiritual practice helps guide you. The only requirement for joining in is your beautiful Franciscan heart.

Our next session will be for one hour on March 26 at 2:00 Pacific Time. Donna Hollis, OFS, will guide us in a discussion of Beatitude One: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit. I will send the link soon.

Our Seraphic Father, St. Francis, smiles as he sees us gathering in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and celebrating our Franciscan way of life.

Prayers for the Ukraine and for our world.

See you soon.

Peace and All Good
Patricia Grace

Attachment: BeatitudesPopeFrancis

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes. Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com

Introduction

February 19 – Saturday  (10pm Pacific – 1pm Eastern)
Patricia Grace, OFS – Guide for Discussion

A Year of Hope: Living the Beatitudes
Summary of Introductory Session: February 19, 2022

The focus group on Spirituality and JPIC convened a year long study entitled:     A Year of Hope: Living the Beatitudes. Patricia Grace, OFS, and Donna Hollis, OFS, are the animators. We began on February 19, 2022 and intend to meet for an hour for the next nine months to read, reflect, pray, and discuss the eight Beatitudes as found in the Gospel of Matthew. We will finalize our year with a summary session in November.

On February 19, we began our session with our Franciscan ritual opening, since this was, indeed, a Franciscan fraternal gathering, simply in another form. After our ritual, Carolyn Townes, our National JPIC Animator, led us in prayer.  We then sat in silence for a moment while we settled into the sacred space and prepared to begin our reflection. A short summary follows.

Patricia Grace led us in a reflection, setting the context for our year of prayer. One of the most basic and essential understandings from St. Francis is that life is all about love: Love the Lord, Love His Kingdom, Love the Earth. This understanding guides our lives and guides our work for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. When we embrace this understanding and reach for guidance, we encounter a loving Lord who reveals himself to us in nature, in the wisdom writings of the Church, in our Catechism, in our wonderful Rule and, most importantly, in scripture. Our beloved St. Francis called us to live our lives starting with the Gospel, then taking its message into our lives, and taking our lives back to the Gospel for deeper reflection and understanding.

Therefore, when we consider Hope, cultivating it, nurturing, and living in it, we go to the Gospel and there we find the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew 5: 3-12. There, the gospel sets forth eight blessings. We paused here in our discussion to reflect upon the word “Blessed.” What does it mean? What did it mean to Jesus when he spoke it? What does it mean to us as we take it into our hearts, minds, and lives? Many thoughts were offered for translation including happy, joyful, loving, aligned with the will of God, to name a few. As we move through the year we will reflect on the essence of the word “Blessed” that resonates most stronger for each of us.

We recognized that although the Beatitudes are poetic and pious, their beauty and piety are found in their truth. They serve as the essence of our personal and spiritual development, the foundation for building harmony within our communities of family, fraternity, towns, and world, and our grounding of the concept of the common good. They teach us how to live in ever deepening faith and service, as we seek the vision of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Each month over the next eight we will read and reflect upon one of the Beatitudes as part of our personal spiritual practice. We will join together, then, for an hour to share our developing understandings. Each session will begin in prayer, have a reflection, a discussion, and close in prayer. Different animators will lead each month. Patricia explained that you may join in as you wish and share as you feel called to share. You are always welcome.

Donna Hollis ended our time with a beautiful prayer and our Ritual Closing.

Peace and All Good,
Patricia Grace, OFS

Attachment: First Session Summary-Download PDF

A 10-month study of the Beatitudes begins on Zoom on Saturday, Feb. 19. Called “2022:  A Year of Hope, Spirituality and JPIC Living the Beatitudes,” the sessions are sponsored by the National Executive Council.

Times will vary each session, check the schedule.

Individuals are invited to attend whatever monthly sessions they can to pray and reflect on the Beatitudes.  Obtain the Zoom link by sending a request to patriciaelizabethgrace7@gmail.com