Tag Archives: beatitude

“Blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me”

Here is a more unfamiliar beatitude, a jarring statement of Christ found in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 11:6), apart from Eight Beatitudes given during His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5).

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Right now, much of what Catholicism teaches – and none of it is new – is taken with great offense. Not from those outside the Church, but those Catholics seeing themselves as ‘sensitized’ to the modern human condition. The warm blanket of false compassion is everywhere, yet the reality is, it ultimately leaves souls out in the cold.

An acquaintance recently told me she didn’t call a priest to see her dying father because she didn’t want to scare him. Several cousins did the same thing – skipping the Last Rites to ‘keep their parents comfortable’ and unstressed. The parents were daily Communicants, and practiced their faith devoutly for 80+ years. They footed the tab for the kids to attend Catholic school. To deny them final sacraments was a spiritual act of betrayal. The kids even skipped having a Catholic funeral Mass. But the afterparty? Yep, went off without a hitch.

The deeper reality is, when people rebuff the teachings of God – teachings they have been raised in, but of late decide to defer to ‘keeping people comfortable’ over extending proper spiritual works of mercy — it’s like a spiritual hate-crime.

This past fall, a phone interruption I almost left for voice mail ended up being a major surprise. A long-ago friend from high school whom I had dated called out of the blue, to talk about his endstage cancer. I knew immediately that he wanted to talk seriously, and that he was scared. We hadn’t spoken more than a few times in almost 40 years. I left my office and went outside with the phone.

Three years of intensive treatment had beaten him down; he was in organ failure. His typically robust voice was crackly and higher-pitched, and his tone somber. He talked of strengthened faith throughout his illness, and worried about the well-being of his wife and child, and how his business would be managed in his absence. I tried to offer suggestions.

But he needed more, and trusted me to be straight with him. I braced and began.

“You’re approaching the most important meeting of your life, and soon,” I said. “Have you seen a priest for your sacraments?” He was quiet.

“No.”

I took a big breath. This was surreal.

“Listen, I could say a lot of things, but here’s the bottom line: you’ve got the gift of time to prepare to meet Christ. You want to embrace Him wholeheartedly, right?”

“Well, yes.”

I continued. “Would you call your favorite priest, today, and make an appointment? You won’t be sorry, I promise.” He agreed. His tone lightened, and he took no offense at the suggestion, but thanked me for ‘being like he always remembered.’ He died peacefully on a First Friday a few weeks later.

And somehow, I sense, things are all right at last.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Blessed are the gentle-hearted

The first Beatitude, blessed are the humblehearted, forms the foundation for the other five “virtue Beatitudes.” The second virtue Beatitude is: Blessed are the gentle-hearted.

Gentle-heartedness follows from humble-heartedness. When I know my proper place and am therefore free to appreciate and affirm the invaluable goodness of my neighbor, I can afford to be gentle. By “gentle,” I do not mean the gentility of a superior patting an inferior on the head, but rather a fundamental recognition of the depth, uniqueness and transcendentality of another person emanating from their eyes, voice and mere presence. This vision of the other engenders a profound insight into my co-equality with them, which in turn engenders a deep insight into my co-responsibility with them for the common good.

I can always tell that things are going well on the “gentle-heartedness front” when I can take delight in people without diminishing them in relationship to me. I can enjoy their insight, love, zeal for the kingdom, courage, wisdom and faith as a grace, as God speaking to me through them.

As with humble-heartedness, gentle-heartedness begins with prayer. As I open my breviary and pray the Psalms, I find myself gradually becoming more comforted by the love of God. As I take delight in God, I become more aware of his deeper delight in me. I am convinced that this emotional bond of friendship is not self-induced, for it is not like reading poetry or good literature. It is God’s grace working through the truth of his love in psalms. They may not be the best poetry or may not have the most modern images, but they nevertheless express praise with the heart of a child filled with wonder.

There is something about the faith of the psalmist which enflames my heart with desire for the Lord who, in turn, infuses me with a sense of being beloved. When I am beloved by such a Lord, it is hard for me not to see the belovedness of others. It is this vision of belovedness that opens the door to delighting in them as coequals and coheirs in the mission of Christ and the kingdom of God. This is the source of the genuine gentle-heartedness which I believe Jesus was trying to incite in the Beatitudes. When it is combined with humbleheartedness (i.e., God and us in our proper places), it leads almost inevitably to love of neighbor.

Before proceeding to the third attitude, it might be helpful to look at the first two Beatitudes from the perspective of leadership. Some leaders may think, “I can’t afford to be humble-hearted and gentlehearted. It’s a tough world out there, and people are trying to take advantage of me and the company. If I am not tough, edgy and driven, I abdicate my responsibility to the shareholders and stakeholders of this company. Yet, I am a good Catholic/Christian, and so I would like to follow what seems to be a course of sanity in knowing my place and treating others with the coequal respect they deserve. I know!

I’ll be humble-hearted and gentle-hearted in my family, community and faith life, but will revert to contrary tendencies in the workplace.”

This attitude has certainly shot through my mind on more than one occasion. I have felt very protective of Gonzaga’s competitive position and the stakeholders who are dependent on a strong and thriving institution. However, as will be seen, this particular view of protectiveness is illusory.

Let us return to our definitions for a moment. Recall that humble-heartedness is knowing my place relative to God and others and that gentle-heartedness is seeing the coequal dignity of others in their “belovedness by God” and in their invaluable eternal soul. There is nothing in these definitions about having to be a wimp or a milk-toast. Frankly, Jesus was neither of these. He was rather firm with the scribes and Pharisees, a rather tough negotiator, very protective of not only his disciples, but of all those who were in need of help and justification (his stakeholders, so to speak).

Leadership is enhanced by the humble-heartedness which knows one’s place. When one tries to be messiah (instead of mere leader), people are neither pleased nor fooled. False messiahs tend to leave small, short-lived legacies with thousands of resentments and people problems in their wake. In contrast, those who have a sense of their co-responsibility with other human beings in building up the kingdom of God tend to leave profound, long-lasting legacies filled with an ethos of respect and even noble virtue. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The literature of leadership is replete with examples of military, business, civic, religious, educational and cultural leaders who, in brief moments of humility, left legacies for generations. It is also replete with examples of the opposite — the dashed plans of pride coming before the fall. Today’s leaders would be well-served to live by Jesus’ standard, and prayer is the one failsafe means to get there.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, is Legatus’ International Chaplain. He is president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., an internationally known author, speaker and consultant. His latest book, “Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life,” was published earlier this year.