"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted"
(Matthew 5:4). Only those who have not lived long enough do
not know what it means to mourn. The death of a parent or
spouse. The end of a marriage or friendship. The loss of a
job. All of these experiences cut into our hearts and make
Jesus' words in this second Beatitude touch on this most
painful and profound human experience. The Bible is God's
Word but it is steeped in our world. The Scriptures are not
abstract or the result of a first-century theological seminar.
The words and passions of the Bible resonate with the down-to-earth
experience of genuine human beings.
The Bible knows all about loss and mourning: the grief of
Abraham at the death of Sarah; the profound sadness of Moses
as he gazed at a promised land he would never see; the sobs
of David over the violent death of his dearest friend, Jonathan;
Rachel weeping for her lost children; the tears of Jesus as
he laments over his beloved city of Jerusalem and its impending
It is no surprise, then, that the Gospel includes those who
mourn in the list of the Beatitudes. The Greek wording of
the Beatitude hints at the specific kind of mourning Jesus
might have had in mind. The word penthountesto
"weep" or "mourn"is used in the famous passage of Isaiah
61:1-3, a text that most interpreters of Matthew's Gospel
believe had a strong influence on the formulation of the Beatitudes:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord
has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the
lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the
captives and release to the prisoners...to comfort all who
mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead
of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning...."
The ones who mourn in this text of Isaiah are those who are
"lowly," "brokenhearted," "captives," "prisoners." This is
the grief of those who feel that their lives are crushed and
who lost everything: their hope, their freedom, their reason
It is hard, of course, to hear about "mourning" and not
to think of all the losses and violent deaths that have occurred
in our own country as well as in Afghanistan and the Middle
East the past few months. Images of people weeping over broken
bodies of loved ones shattered by violence are burned into
our hearts. So, too, are the dazed and haggard faces of the
multitude of refugees created by the war, people without hope
and in desperate need of food and shelter wailing in anguish.
In calling those who mourn "blessed" Jesus does not suggest
that there is anything pleasant or beneficial in mourning.
People mourn because of tragedy and terrible suffering. Some
of that suffering is the result of human sin, such as violence
inflicted on the innocent or abject poverty imposed on people
without means. There is nothing blessed about that at all.
No, the only reason people who mourn are blessed is because
God hears their cries and will comfort them.
A fundamental belief of the Bible and of our Christian faith
is sounded in the second half of this Beatitude. No cry of
the poor and suffering will go unanswered. Early in the biblical
saga, God made that clear when he said to Moses in the desert
of Midian, "I have heard the cries of my people and have come
to rescue them." Jesus' prophetic words echo that same sentiment.
God is not indifferent to human suffering and will comfort
those who mourn. This is the intent of the reign of God for
which Jesus has come; it is the future for which Christians
Jesus' words give direction to our lives now. It is understandable
that we mourn and lament the sufferings we experience or witness
in others. Jesus, too, lamented the sufferings of his people
and cried out in anguish at the prospect of his own death
on the cross.
At the same time, we take heart in knowing that God still
holds all those who suffer in the palm of his hand. Comforting
those who mourn, alleviating the suffering that leads to anguish
are divine and noble works that we are called to as followers
How do you handle grief? Where have you found
It is often difficult to approach someone who
has suffered a loss. What are some practical ways
of comforting others?
to this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
Are They Who Mourn
By Judith Dunlap
Bad things happen even to the very young. Friends move
away, parents separate, pets are lost. For us parents there
is a great temptation to say, "Don't cry. Everything will
be all right." It sounds like a Christian response rooted
in faith and hope. In truth, the "Everything will be all
right" part is fine. It's the "Don't cry" that needs to
Tears are cleansing. They are a gift of our human condition.
They communicate our feelings, allow for the cohesive bond
of compassion and open the door for healing. But sometimes
tears get stifled. It takes faith and hope to trust that
all will be well, just as it takes courage and humility
to accept our own tears and those of others.
We parents often have almost a compulsive need to make
things better, to solve problems, to fix things. And so
we say things like, "Don't cry" or "Look at it this way,"
when often what our children really need is just our quiet
presence and the support of our love. It helps, when we
find a youngster in distress, to take a few moments for
some quiet prayer of our ownto ask for the grace to
experience and share God's comforting love. If we take the
time to listen and suffer our children's pain with them,
then perhaps later they will also be open to talking and
processing the experience.
As Christians we communicate faith and hope through our
love. Our compassion draws us closer and helps to shoulder
the burden and quicken the healing. As parents we need to
allow our youngsters to show their grief, offering our comforting
presence and gentle support as a testimony to our words,
"Everything will be all right."
By Frank Frost
The story of a winning French waif who sets out to make
the world straight, Amelie is a rare foreign film
(French, with subtitles) that has achieved commercial success
in America, making it a clear contender for an Academy Award
for Best Foreign Picture.
It is also rare for its unabashed optimism. It is rated
At the beginning, Amelie appears to be a film about
fate. "On a certain day, at a certain time, a fly landed
on a street, a tablecloth was lifted by the wind, sperm
were swimming toward an egg," a narrator tells us as the
film opens, drawing our attention to unattended magical
moments converging in the flow of fate.
It is an act of fate when Amelie drops a cap from a bottle
in her bathroom, which happens to roll against a loose wall
tile, behind which Amelie finds a box of personal treasures
left there by a little boy many years before. This will
change her life. She resolves to track down the owner of
the box and do him the favor of returning it.
This quest to find the owner of the box, Dominic Bretodeau,
introduces her to other characters, each in need of love
or respect or freedom in some form. She undertakes to manipulate
fate to help each of them: Lucien, publicly humiliated by
his greengrocer employer; the "Glass Man"so called
because his bones are so fragilestuck in a rut copying
the same Renoir painting over and over again; her concierge,
lost for decades in mourning her husband who died in a plane
crash after running off with another woman; even her own
father, who has retreated from life altogether since her
This is a whimsical love comedy not only in its story,
but also in its telling. The camera work and occasional
speeded-up action give the feeling that the filmmaker, Jean-Pierre
Jeunet, is winking at his audience. In one sprightly musical-comedy-like
sequence Amelie becomes the eyes of a blind man while escorting
him along the street, all the while describing at top speed
the wondrous ordinary sights they pass.
But Amelie also encounters a mystery along the way and
is attracted to a strange young man, Nino, whom she first
encounters scraping things out from under an automatic photo
carrel in the train station. She repeatedly manipulates
circumstances to get his attention from a distance, but
then uses endless stratagems to avoid actually meeting him.
In the end Amelie helps all the others: Lucien, the "Glass
Man," her concierge, her father, and Gina, a fellow waitress
at the restaurant where she works (another little gem of
absurdity). Above all, returning the box of treasures to
Bretodeau triggers a reconciliation between him and his
daughter and grandson.
It turns out that life is not just about fate after all.
It's about choiceschoices to embrace life in whatever
form it comes.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
There is so little we know of St. Joseph. What we do know
is that he was the husband of Mary and the foster father
of Jesus. He was a blue-collar worker, a carpenter by trade.
He was descended from the house of David. He was, as Scripture
tells us, a "righteous" or "just" man.
There is so much more we would like to know about him.
What were Joseph's thoughts and feelings when he learned
that Mary, the woman to whom he was engaged, was mysteriously
"with child"? How did he feel when he and his wife were
forced to take shelter in a simple stable when it came time
for Jesus' birth? What was life like for Joseph, as well
as his wife and son, after they fled to Egypt to avoid persecution
at the hands of King Herod? As Jesus grew and Joseph passed
along his carpentry skills, what kinds of father-son conversations
did they have as they worked side by side?
Despite the abundance of questions and the lack of answers,
devotion to St. Joseph runs deep. For centuries, the Church
has honored him as the patron of fathers, of workers, of
a happy death (because Jesus and Mary are thought to have
been present when he died, likely before Jesus' public ministry),
of many countries, including Russia, Mexico and Vietnam.
Special veneration of St. Joseph probably arose first in
the East as early as the fifth or sixth century. In England
his feast was observed by 1100 but it was not until 1479
that St. Joseph was introduced into the Roman Calendar.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII added Joseph to the list of saints
in the First Eucharistic Prayer. The feast of St. Joseph
is celebrated on March 19.
David Thomas has long seen St. Joseph as a great role model.
No wonder. As the father of five biological and two adopted
children and foster father to 75 youngsters over the years,
the 63-year-old editor and writer often turns to the third
member of the Holy Family for guidance.
Like St. Joseph, heand his wife, Karentreasure
"Our children are not our possessions but gifts to be cared
for," Dr. Thomas told Every Day Catholic. "They come
from the Spirit of life, and we give our life's blood to
them and for them. No other historical figure did that so
willingly as St. Joseph did."
When he looks at St. Joseph, Dr. Thomas sees a devoted
husband and father, a man of deep, altruistic love whose
human dimension is often lost. "Here was a man in a family
situation not of his own making, but he stayed present to
Mary and Jesus throughout his life. They remained in each
other's hearts. They lived by faith and trust."
Dr. Thomas is a modern-day husband and parent who must
constantly juggle family and work pressures. He now serves
as codirector of the Bethany Family Institute and is an
editor with Benziger publishers. For 20 years he directed
the Leadership and Family Ministry program at Regis University
in Denver. He served as a consultant to the 1980 World Synod
of Bishops on the family. He holds a doctorate in theology
from the University of Notre Dame and also has had special
training in family therapy.
"Society provides us with many ways to escape the responsibility
of parenthood," Dr. Thomas observes. But his role model
offers an alternative. Joseph could have done the same,
"but he stayed true."
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer
Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)