This Lent, my parish is learning the beatitudes.
We don’t memorize things very often these days. Our computers, not our minds, contain our memory. But the ancient Jews committed whole chapters of the Torah to memory.
I think it is a good idea to memorize a few important things of our faith, like the Ten Commandments, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and, most of all, the beatitudes.
The beatitudes are the Magna Carta of the Christian life. They are the distilled thinking of our Lord about how to achieve holiness and happiness. They are the centerpiece of the Sermon on the Mount and the threshold to the teaching of Jesus.
So I have challenged myself and our parish to commit the beatitudes to memory by Easter. We are doing this by saying a "beatitudes rosary" every day.
A beatitudes rosary is just like the rosary of Our Lady, except in the place of the Hail Marys, you say one of the beatitudes. There are actually eight beatitudes, but with a little adjustment of the final one, you can make it parse to 10 beads.
This is how I divided it up.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
10. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
It’s not really hard. There are fewer words than the regular rosary, but the beatitudes rosary requires more attention, since each bead is different.
If you say the beatitudes rosary with a group, the leader can say the first phrase, beginning with "Blessed," and the community can say the part beginning with "for." That completes the thought and expresses the fruit of each beatitude.
What I like about this prayer is that it requires some meditation. Each bead is a jumping-off point for thought on what it means to be "poor in spirit" or "merciful" or a "peacemaker."
These 10 sentences are a school of the spirituality of Jesus. If we really mean it when we say that he is our Lord, we ought to want to know his approach to the spiritual life.
At the end of this meditation, we come away with a picture of what a spirit-filled Christian will really look like. We should be detached from material things and sensitive to sorrows of others. We should not be arrogant. We will have a passion for justice and mercy, which are two sides of the coin of righteousness. We will be pure of heart and clean of mind. We will seek peace in our relationships and our world. We will seek a right relationship with God. We will not mind it if we suffer for his sake.
This is a great deal of spiritual wisdom, distilled down to 10 little sentences.
I hope by the end of Lent it is part of my memory bank and my soul.
Father Daly is a columnist for Catholic News Service.