Communities of the Beatitudes

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Catholics from across the Diocese of Jefferson City gathered together to celebrate the annual Chrism Mass, at which the priests of the diocese renew the promises made at their ordination and the bishop blesses the holy oils which will be used in all the parishes of the diocese to celebrate the sacraments in the coming year. It was truly a beautiful celebration, and I was glad to see a few families from Saint Vincent de Paul Parish present, in addition to Fr. Joe and myself and the deacons.
On the same day, Bishop McKnight also promulgated a pastoral letter addressed to the entire Diocese of Jefferson City entitled Shaping Our Future Together: Parishes on Mission Together as Communities of the Beatitudes. With his letter, he officially promulgated a new three-year diocesan pastoral plan, as well as the pastoral plans of the five deaneries of the diocese, including the Southwest Deanery, of which Saint Vincent de Paul Parish is a part. The new diocesan pastoral plan continues to address the themes of our previous pastoral plan: strengthening participation in the life of our parishes through stewardship, strengthening our awareness and practice of co-responsibility for the mission of the Church, and strengthening our parishes as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy. You can read more about the concrete diocesan and deanery plans to address these goals at

In his pastoral letter, Bishop McKnight offered a reflection on the Beatitudes, central to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as the spiritual framework for these diocesan and deanery pastoral plans. He wrote:

The various Beatitudes given are forms of the first and fundamental Beatitude, “poverty of spirit,” which brings salvation to those who embrace it. All of them are moments that draw the Holy Spirit to us and when we are closest to God (hence, they are true “Beatitudes” or “blessed opportunities” that bring a deeper meaning to life and spiritual satisfaction like nothing else). Those who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst, who are merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers and who suffer persecution all experience a poverty of spirit, which comes with its own blessing.

Our Lord provides the perfect example of the Beatitudes in his own life and ministry. The many ways in which he gave himself, culminating in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, manifests how he was perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect. We, however, are struggling disciples who are on the path of conversion to live out and embrace the Beatitudes more readily and fully in our lives. Whenever we follow the Lord’s command to take up our cross daily and follow him, or to die to ourselves like a grain of wheat, we experience the most meaning in our lives as Christians and are closest to the Lord, receiving all the blessings of the kingdom.

The Beatitudes thus stand as key moments in people’s lives that draw the attention and consolation of the Holy Spirit. As “another Christ” and the Body of Christ, we too, both individually and as a community of believers, should be drawn to all individuals who are in the throes of one or more of the Beatitudes, just as our Lord was. The pillars of stewardship, especially hospitality and service, support these evangelizing efforts. We fulfill our mission as Church only when we become a community of the Beatitudes wherein we accompany those who grieve the death of a loved one with the Church’s funeral rites; when we foster reconciliation in peacemaking and the practice of mercy; when we stand in solidarity with those pushed to the margins of society because their human dignity is not fully acknowledged; we are true disciples of the Lord when we exhibit the gift of fortitude when persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. We should avoid at all costs any appearance of mere commercial transactions whenever we provide services as a Church for anyone marked by the Beatitudes.

Just as we are on paths of individual conversion to a life of the Beatitudes, so we are on a synodal path as the Church together, at times imperfect in our communion, participation and mission, but assured and guaranteed the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Our pastoral plans can be the means by which we become a community of the Beatitudes as we are centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy.

These two images – “centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy” and “a community of the Beatitudes” – provide great food for thought and prayer for us as a parish. I can easily think of so many ways that these images already describe Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, but I encourage us to take seriously Bishop McKnight’s challenge:

I ask for the commitment from each Catholic in our diocese to seriously reflect on what their role is in helping to make these plans a reality. Everyone is also asked to prayerfully consider how they and their families can engage more deeply in a stewardship spirituality by becoming more engaged in their parishes.