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The editors of Commonweal caught my attention! The editorial titled “Advent in a Time of War” pointed to a contradiction I had never thought of
One central problem for Christians now is how to reconcile two of the beatitudes in our lives as citizens—how to be peacemakers while also hungering and thirsting for justice.
In the real world, those seeking peace and those demanding justice often seem to be deeply at odds. To the makers and keepers of peace, the demand for justice may look like an ill-disguised call for vengeance.
Up until then, I thought many people might have problems naming all eight of the beatitudes.
The editor’s description of a central problem of our time raised a question I had never thought of. Did Jesus propose contradictory ideals in one of his most well-known sermons? Their description of one of central problems point to that very question.
Peace maker and/or prophet?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that I know few people who are clearly peacemakers and prophets.
The virtues involved in each seem to be so different.
Usually, one is good at one but not the other. Furthermore, each seems not to appreciate the other. “To the makers and keepers of peace, the demand for justice may look like an ill-disguised call for vengeance.”
The Vincentian “And”
- St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660): St. Vincent de Paul demonstrated a both/and thinking approach. He emphasized the integration of spirituality and practical charity, working to address the material and spiritual needs of the poor. St. Vincent de Paul recognized the interconnectedness of social justice and personal holiness.
- St. Louise de Marillac (1591-1660): St. Louise de Marillac, co-founder of the Daughters of Charity, also exhibited a both/and thinking approach. She emphasized the importance of serving the poor and marginalized, while recognizing the need for organizational structure and administrative efficiency to effectively carry out charitable works.
- Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853): As the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Frederic Ozanam displayed both/and thinking. He emphasized the integration of faith and social action, advocating for the spiritual growth of individuals through works of charity and social justice.
- Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton demonstrated a both/and thinking approach. She emphasized the integration of spirituality and education, founding the first Catholic parochial school system in the United States. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton believed in nurturing both the intellectual and spiritual growth of individuals.
Another “both /and” thinker
Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903): Pope Leo XIII’s thinking style reflected both both/and and either/or tendencies. He was known for his encyclical Rerum Novarum, which addressed social and economic justice. Pope Leo XIII recognized the importance of addressing social issues and advocating for workers’ rights while also emphasizing traditional Catholic teachings and the role of the Church in society.
How are you at recognizing and living the competing values of Jesus’ Beatitudes?