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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | March 2002

Community of the Beatitudes

Q U I C K S C A N

Finding Curriculum Connections
Finding Links
Understanding Basic Terms
Building Christian Community, Then and Now
Research Resources


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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:
Scriptures—the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles; the Beatitudes; Christianity's Judaic roots
Christian lifestyles—community life; friendship in faith

Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of AmericanCatholicYouth.org.

Contemplative community

Christian communal living

Acts of the Apostles

Renewal movement

Evangelical energy

Quiet desperation

Beatitudes

Charism

Monastic life

Witness

School of holiness

Building Christian Community, Then and Now

This month we profile a small band of individuals who migrated from Europe to the United States to build a Christian communal life as the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes. A radical experiment in Christian living, the community members serve as missionaries to the spiritually hungry in the Denver area.

Their ongoing journey offers parallel insights to the origins of Christian community as documented in the Christian Scriptures, especially the Acts of the Apostles. In the Acts, the author Luke (the same Luke who wrote the Gospel that bears his name) tells the story of a group of believers coming together to live in faith.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Acts 2:42-47.

Denver's Community of the Beatitudes demonstrates how the Church continues since its origin to flower in communal life. The Community seeks to promote holiness for all. That's not to say that they're living saints. Uneasy with their own sinfulness (the founding couple, for example, aborted their first child), and restless for spiritual peace (members knew the "quiet desperation" characteristic of so many American lives), they listened when the Holy Spirit called them to a new life in community.

Isn't this sinfulness and restlessness characteristic as well of the disciples of Jesus in the first days of the Church? Peter vehemently and publicly denied he ever knew Jesus. All Jesus' followers deserted him at the time of his death. Even after the Resurrection, they stayed inside hiding for fear they too would be killed.

On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews… John 20: 19.

Only the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost transformed the early disciples into fearless preachers. They spread out through the then-known world to evangelize, that is, to bring the joy of the Resurrection to anyone who would listen and believe. According to the New American Bible's Introduction to Acts, Luke "describes the emergence of Christianity from its origins in Judaism to its position as a religion of worldwide status and appeal."

Paul, the Church's first well-known Jewish convert, preached the Christian faith as the fulfillment of the loving relationship God first began with the Israelites, as in Acts 13:16-31:

So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, "Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen.

The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.

Paul's sermon continues to explain the Jewish scriptures through to the coming of Jesus.

God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel…

And of Jesus' tragic death Paul says,

But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people.

Witnessing to the joyful news of the Resurrection became the core message of the Church. Likewise moved by the Spirit to be witnesses, the members of the Community of the Beatitudes inspire many in their neighborhood and city. Visitors to the Community proclaim they have experienced the joy of the Resurrection. People go out of their way to pray with the community, to drop in for meals, to slip by in the darkness to ask for help when there's nowhere else to turn. Several of the current community members were attracted to the group precisely because they experienced this inspiration in similar Beatitudes communities. "You could feel God's presence in the liturgy of the community," they said.

Witnessing to Jesus will always drive the Church's missionary efforts throughout the world. (See the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church for an extensive explanation of the Church's mission.) Since the Church's beginnings, Christian community has evolved into a variety of forms to serve different missions. Members of the Community of the Beatitudes follow a lifestyle similar to the work and prayer regimen of a monastery. Other Christian communities and renewal groups can take other shapes:

  • Some, like the Catholic Worker Movement, organize loosely around a life of service to the needy and homeless in urban neighborhoods.
  • Other groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor integrate the more traditional form of dedicated community life with living and working among and as the poor.
  • The parish community, a form we are most familiar with, often tries to rejuvenate itself, as several Chicago churches recently exemplify. (See the August 2001 Links for Learners on bringing young adult Catholics back into parish communities.)
  • Catholic renewal ministries reach out to those in need of physical and spiritual healing.
  • The Jesuits focus on education and social ministries throughout the world.
  • Parish retreat programs reach teens as they prepare for further sacramental life in Confirmation; high school programs build community among friends and classmates.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The New American Bible
Documents of Vatican II
The Vatican
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Time magazine
CNN
MSNBC
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
People magazine
The History Channel
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization
ABC News
Channel One’s online resource
The Washington Post
Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications


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