The way of the Beatitudes, now and foreverBy: Nick Lund-Molfese
Life, Hell, Heaven, and the Kingdom of God (Part III)
Continuing where we left off in “Part II” in this series, we recall that the Kingdom of God is present, here and now, in a partially-hidden way on earth. As the Second Vatican Council taught, “Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By his obedience, he brought about redemption. The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world” (“Lumen Gentium” [“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”], 3).
Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God, and the power of God is at work in us. We cannot establish the kingdom of God in this world (to attempt to do is the folly of fanatics). But by cooperating with God, we do build material on earth that will be part of God’s kingdom. His kingdom includes all that is good, including every aspect of human flourishing, not as ideals, but as concrete instances. It is not the ideas of love or truth or compassion that constitutes the kingdom but concrete incarnations of these goods brought about by the power of God acting within us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church cautions that, “Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved. This distinction is not a separation. Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace” (CCC, 2820). Each person is called by God to cooperate with Him, in a unique path of life, to bring about irreplaceable materials for the kingdom.
As Pope Paul VI explained, Jesus gave us a universal outline of this path when he “taught us the way of the beatitudes of the Gospel: poverty in spirit, meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice, mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered for justice sake” (“Credo of the People of God,” 12). The beatitudes “express the vocation of the faithful” and “shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life. The beatitudes are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples” (CCC, 1717).
What the “way of the beatitudes” concretely consists of is unique for every person, and they constitute a kind of cobblestone path for a Christian’s personal vocation. We can look to the example of the saints to better comprehend life lived according to the beatitudes. In particular, Pope John Paul II called Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, “a man of the eight beatitudes,” and described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life.” Pope John Paul II declared Frassati a patron of World Youth Days.
Frassati was committed to works of social action, charity, prayer, and community. He gave his train fare, and even the clothes off his back, to the poor, even if this meant being cold or walking home himself. Although actively involved in many charitable works, he is quoted by numerous contemporaries as saying, “Charity is not enough; we need social reform.” Frassati promoted the social teachings of Pope Leo XIII’s foundational social encyclical, “Rerum Novarum” (“On Capital and Labor”), by founding a newspaper called Momento.
A political activist and strongly anti-fascist, Frassati, while participating in a Church-organized demonstration in Rome, “stood up to police violence and rallied the other young people by grabbing the banner. … He held it even higher while using the pole to fend off their blows.” One night a group of fascists broke into his family’s home to attack him and his father.
“At first I thought it was thieves,” Frassati would say, “but on reaching the hall and seeing one of them about to cut the telephone wires, I immediately realized that they were the Fascists. My blood let in my veins. I threw myself at them shouting: ‘Blackguards, cowards, assassins!’ and I went for the guy at the telephone with my fists.”
Pier Giorgio Frassati was no cardboard-cutout kind of saint!
He was a flesh-and-blood young man whose heart was full of compassion toward the weak, but was not afraid to work for justice even at some personal risk (he died at 24). Although obviously very intense, he was best known to his friends for his love of mountain climbing and practical jokes.
Pope John Paul II, after visiting his tomb in Pollone in 1989, said: “I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. In my youth, I also felt the beneficial influence of his example, and as a student I was impressed by the force of his Christian testimony”.
To learn more about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, see http://www.piergiorgiofrassati.org and http://www.frassatiusa.org/. If you are moved by his example and are between the ages of 18 and 30, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s discuss forming a Frassati Society for our diocese.