Mysteries on the Beatitudes and Gifts of the Holy Spirit


My fifteen Mediations on the Chapter One of John’s Gospel reflected what we learned in the first hour of class in our major seminary. Every morning we started with a fifty-five minute class in the Dogmatic Theology that covered our beliefs. We followed that with fifty-five minutes of Moral Theology that covered our proper Christian behavior.

In those meditations on the John mysteries my approach was similar to the one we took in our Dogmatic Theology and Scripture classes.

But for my next fifteen meditations that deal with Christian morality our approach will be quite different from the one we followed in those  Moral Theology classes back in 1950.

Moral Theology classes became a key part of the training for priests back in 1215. It was then that a council of the Church made it a rule that every Catholic had to go to confession once a year. That rule set the church to composing manuals to help priests recognize and deal with the kinds of sins people confess.  For the next seven hundred and fifty years our Moral Theology focused on what we should and shouldn’t do. Our texts books brought us one at a time through Ten Commandments and the Seven Commandments of the Church.

Of course we cannot put all of those principles aside, but in the fifteen rosary mysteries I suggest to you, instead of concentrating on what we should and shouldn’t do, we will focus on what we should and shouldn’t be. We will make up our fifteen mysteries by one at a time take up the eight Beatitudes and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel 5:2-10. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are first mentioned in Chapter Eleven of the Book of the prophet Isaiah. Speaking of God’s Servant, Isaiah said this.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest jupon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a sprit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be fear of the Lord.” Isaiah, 11: 2-3

Fifteen Rosary Mysteries for Christian Behavior


First Mystery for Christian Behavior. . . Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew, 5:3)

A chorus in Gilbert and Sullivan tells us, “If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool be careful to be guided by this golden rule.” I bring up that silly line because its notion of your soul being fettered to something is what the first of the Beatitudes is concerned with. A person whose soul is not fettered to anything here below is free to fly up to God. What do you treasure? Is it wealth or popularity, or is it God’s goodness? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be.” (Luke 12:34)

In St. Luke’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying, “Blessed are the poor,” but Matthew’s version is better. We have rich people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who give everything away, and poor people who are greedy. We had an old woman in Korea who sat in the dust at our bus stop, selling cookies she made with fake flour and fake sugar. It only brought in pennies, but those pennies meant everything to her.  “I’ve got to sell my cookies,” was her reason for missing Mass till the day she died, and we buried her. Our Lord’s blessed individuals are those who treasure what has lasting value.


Second Mystery on Christian Behavior.  “ Blessed are they who mourn.” (Matthew, 5:4)  

Mourning here does not describe grieving over deaths. It rather extols people whose hearts go out to those who are suffering. As a mystery of the rosary it alerts us to the need to drop our own concerns, and to look around for those who are hurting. That number would take in those who were old and lonely, as well as the young who need direction, and all the people in between who are suffering over making ends meet.


Third Mystery of Christian Behavior . . . “Blessed are the meek.”  (Matthew, 5:5)

Being meek means letting someone else hold the television’s remote. Meekness means not valuing yourself too highly, and it is a balancing act. Jesus tells you to love your neighbor as yourself, not more than yourself. Since you are made in God’s image, it would be wrong of you not to love yourself. It would be sinful for you to stop caring for yourself. But meekness lets you see that everyone around you is also made in God’s image, and as such deserves to be catered to.

In our seminary days we were campused except during Easter week. Those days we could go out and buy ice cream, but not from shops within five miles of the seminary. So one morning in Easter week sixty years ago I finished up some work in my cubicle, then after lunch I went out looking for another seminarian to make the five mile hike out and back with me.

 I ran into Malachy Hanratty, but before I could say what was on my mind, Malachy said, “Sully, I walked the ten miles for ice cream this morning, and I’m dead tired.” I said, “I’m glad you told me that, because I was just going to ask you to go with me.” To that Malachy replied, “Oh, Sully, if you want me to go with you, I’ll go then.”  If you are capable of that kind of meekness you’ll be remembered for it sixty years from now. (Malachy has been a fine priest.)


Fourth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice.” (Matthew, 5:6)

There are six billion people in the world, all of whom need food and shelter every day. For meeting those needs through an equitable distribution of what the world has to offer people rely on what we call “rights.” They are invisible tickets that give their holders a claim what they need. They are gained by work, gift or inheritance.  Our claim on our rights is guaranteed by the rule of justice which states that everyone can lay claim to what he has a right.

In addition to the justice that honors the acquired rights of individuals there is also a distributive justice which  guarantees everyone in the world his or her minimal share of what is needed for life. Out of distributive justice Bill Gates and Warren Buffett felt obliged to give to the needy ninety percent of what they had acquired right to. Out of distributive just the church recognized the right of all people to a living wage and a decent education.

For us to qualify as hungering and thirsting for justice we need to take an active interest in the needs of  people everywhere, and we need to distribute to the needy from our abundance.


Fifth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “Blessed are the merciful.” (Matthew, 5:7)

Being merciful has us forgiving even those who are not sorry. It has us making allowance for those who don’t deserve it.  Some days the priest at Mass leads us into the Our Father by asking God to “bring us to forgive those who sin against us.” With not paying enough attention, I always thought we were offering forgiveness to those who had sinned against us in the past. Then, one morning, listening closely, it came through to me that we were asking to be forgiving of people who go right on sinning against us.

The high school seminary I attended in St. Louis was so strict that they expelled you for a failing grade. In second year my mind went blank as to the theorems for three of the five questions in a geometry exam. Our teacher was a merciless grader, and I had no right to anything more than a grade of forty. I was looking for an easier school to transfer to when the teacher came across with a grade of eighty for me. That act of mercy saved me, and it left me feeling there would be times when I would need to be kind to people who just didn‘t deserve it.


Sixth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “Blessed are the Clean of Heart” (Matthew, 5:8)

While Catholics take this Beatitude to be an admonition against lustful thoughts, the scholars tell us that it is a criticism of a notion of the Pharisees: that notion that saw purity as consisting in the outward avoidance of what is not kosher.

Jesus saw purity to be a matter of the heart. We keep our hearts clean from lustful, greedy and proud thoughts.

Another line of meditation we can take on it is that of encouraging ourselves to be single minded in following our vocation in life, as parents, children, teachers, priests, or whatever. All that being said, there is still merit in the old Catholic notion that we need to keep our hearts free from lustful thoughts: especially those that show disregard for the rights of others: their marital rights, and their right to privacy.


Seventh Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “Blessed are the Peacemakers”  (Matthew, 5:9)

We need to work for three kinds of peace: for peace with ourselves, with those we deal with, and with the world.

As for peace with ourselves, St. John of the Cross, in his “Ascent of Mt. Carmel,” said that all personal disquiet comes from unmet desires. That belief of his had him advising us to train ourselves not to wish for anything. If we can keep from wanting riches, popularity, freedom from pain, a long life, or whatever, then we will be at peace with ourselves.

For peace with the others we must either do away with our desires that are in conflict with theirs, or we must come to see how they are acting in good faith hen they are supporting causes of which we disapprove. We can peacefully agree to differ.


Eighth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”
 (Matt. 5:9)

This Beatitude probably would not apply directly to any of us. We haven’t been subjected to full blown persecutions. Still, which of us has not been put in a bad light? There were two times when my bishop confronted me with unfavorable things people were saying against me. In my mind it didn’t seem fair, but I could not completely convince the bishop of that. I suppose we all run into such situations.

Putting up with false accusations the way Jesus did must be part of God’s training schedule for us.

(We now begin meditating on then Gifts of the Holy Spirit as mysteries for our rosary. In their preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation when teenagers are told they will receive these gifts they should not think of them as nicely rapped gifts from God. No, the kids welcome God into their hearts. They become aware of his presence, and they they are moved to call on him for wisdom, understanding, and the rest. )


Ninth Mystery on Christian behavior. . . The Gift of Wisdom

When you make the gift of wisdom a mystery of your rosary you pray for help at avoiding foolishness. Being wise has nothing to do with reading many books and delivering weighty opinions. It is more a matter of forming habits that will leave us happy in the long run.

I feel sorry for people who cannot take long walks. It’s such a pleasure to wander along, saying the rosary on your fingers. You check yourself on your eating habits, on your TV watching, on your visiting people you should call on, on serious reading. You check yourself on wise sayings such as “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” or, “Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor the last to lay the old aside.” 
Wisdom,  which consists in avoiding foolish behavior will often come with age, because when foolish behavior has burned someone often enough they will sometimes catch on, and wisely avoid what causes pain.


Tenth Mystery on Human Behavior. . . Understanding

This is the second Gift of the Holy Spirit. Your meditation on it can begin with your taking the word apart. You pray for insight in knowing: “What is standing under the appearance of things? What is standing under someone’s odd behavior?”

 Or, perhaps being an understanding person should begin before you question about those appearances. It should begin with your giving yourself to a careful observance of appearances. It begins with your being aware. Back in the seminary Dan McGinn used to say, “You wouldn’t worry about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they actually thought of you.”

The philosophers speak of a law of behavior that is as consistent as the law of gravity that has things dropping when you let them go. That law of behavior states that individuals always act to achieve what seems to be right and good to them at the time. When you are confronted with someone who is behaving in a way you object to, your task is to search out what in that person’s background or physical or emotional state caused them to act that way. That understanding of their motives might not show you a way for straightening them, but it will lead to your forgiving them.


Eleventh Mystery On Human Behavior. . .  The Gift of Counsel

Counsel is God’s gift that inclines you to seek the advise of others. With me, many times when going in for a retreat lecture and finding a place to sit, I have been thinking about how I knew as much as the speaker knew about the subject. But, then, in listening to the man, I was surprised and delighted with the new ideas he had for us.

While mediating on this gift it might help you to recall an occasion when a friend turned your foolish thinking around. As an ambitious young pastor I came into a gathering of older priests who were doing everything the old way, and getting the same poor results. I lit into them for their lack of ambition and for their lack of understanding of the people they were meant to serve.

Afterwards Father Neil Boyle, a quiet man, asked to have a word with me. He asked me if I knew the effect of what I had been saying. “Tom, those men were happy at having a young priest like you coming out to join in their work. It is particularly their high regard for you that made it so painful to have you turn on them like that.” That was a help for me.


Twelfth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . .  The Gift of Fortitude

When I think of the gift of fortitude I sometime find myself humming the Brit’s World War One song: “Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end. What though the way be long, let your heart be strong. Keep right on round the bend.”

Other days I am on a patriotic U.S.A. kick that has me singing our Navy song, and I burst out singing, “If you have to take a lickin, carry on and quit your kickin, don’t give u p the ship.” 

A funny old saying tells us, “Anything worth doing at all is worth doing badly.” You might not be the best of husbands or typists or friend in need; but in the long run being faithful, being reliable, might be of more value than being talented.

As a mystery of your rosary this gift has you asking God for the strength and patience to keep going, to put up with the annoyances.


Thirteenth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . The gift of Knowledge

The gift of knowledge directs us to act in accord with the facts. A hazy notion of matters leads to our making wrong, sometimes hurtful decisions. You will hear people saying, “If I had only known then truth of the matter I wouldn’t have acted that way.” The gift of Knowledge prevents you from ending up in that sad situation.

There is a saying that goes, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” The truth of that can be observed in the talk you hear around you in restaurants. Someone might say, “Listen to me, all them ragheads over there are terrorists. We ought to nuke them all.” Or, “You know what caused that earthquake down in Chile? It was those people two hundred years ago failing to consecrate their nation to the Heart of Mary. I’m telling you, it’s true.” 

By the Gift of Knowledge that you pray for in your rosary has you following the urging from God to not act or talk before you have the facts.


Fourteenth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . The Gift of Fear of the Lord

The Prophet Isaiah, in giving us the gifts of the Spirit listed only six of them, but the Catholic Church inserted the gift of Piety in the second last position. While the word Piety makes us think of someone who says twice the usual amount of prayers, the word actually means being loyal to one’s elders.

The church in the old days got into the practice of listing seven of everything. We counted seven Sacraments, seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, seven corporal works of mercy, seven archangels. The church’s putting Piety into Isaiah’s list could remind one of Cinderella’s sisters  forcing their feet to fit the beautiful slippers. I think we will be more in line with Isaiah’s listing of the gifts if we see fearing the Lord as the sixth gift, then, go one to take delighting in the Lord as the seventh gift.

To fear the Lord means to take care not to offend him. In the same way that we behave ourselves when the teacher is in the room, we also behave ourselves when we are in the Lord’s presence (which is always.).


Fifteenth Mystery on Christian Behavior. . . “His delight is in fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah, 11:3)

One who delights in spending every minute in God’s presence does not feel constrained by always having God there watching. Rather, he or she likes nothing better than having God’s loving attention following all his or her movements.

 So, for your final mystery you will do well to delight in living in God’s presence. You can join Mary in saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

There is nothing better for you than that your rosary should prepare you for consciously spending your day in God’s presence.

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