Happiness is something we all strive for, and the Christian tradition has the key to true happiness — it comes straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ. A new book published by St. Benedict Press, “Kingdom of Happiness: Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life” ($14.95), by Father Jeffrey Kirby, looks deeply into this key to happiness.
In tandem with the release of the book, St. Benedict Press has initiated what they are calling the “#BeBlessedChallenge.” This is a social media campaign that ties in with the book and encourages people to live the beatitudes in their daily lives, according to the publisher.
Living the beatitudes
In this challenge, people and parishes can sign up to live the beatitudes over the course of eight days. The challenge even includes nominations, whereby people can recognize someone in their lives whom they believe lives the beatitudes in a special way. These nominations will be accepted through the end of March, at which time a “Kingdom Man,” “Kingdom Woman” and “Kingdom Kid” will be selected and awarded prizes.
“When we live in Jesus’ message in the beatitudes, we experience what it is like to be blessed in our own lives and as we serve as a conduit of God’s blessing to others,” according to information provided by the publisher.
The book has been endorsed by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Father Kirby considers this endorsement pivotal to the book, “since living the beatitudes isn’t just about our personal lives but also about our involvement in the public forum,” he said. “While we might all have different opinions on policy, we are united in a singular desire for our happiness and that of our neighbor.”
The beatitudes do not describe an easy way of life, Father Kirby points out. These are sayings meant to comfort the afflicted and give reassurance to those suffering in the circumstances described. Often we struggle to place ourselves in those shoes and live the life of poverty that is addressed by the beatitudes. But it is important for us to do exactly that.
“In the Western world of the 21st century,” Father Kirby said, “many of us have to pick up the challenge of living a way of life that’s summarized by the beatitudes. Plainly put, this means we have to examine and adjust some of the comforts and expectations that come with being in an economically First World country.”
The first question that must be asked is: What does it mean to be blessed? The word “beatitude” comes from a word meaning “to be happy,” and in some translations of the New Testament, Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount are translated as “Happy are those ...” rather than “Blessed are those. ...” The next logical questions are: How to be blessed? How to be happy?
“Our world is fallen and tries to convince us of wrong or incomplete notions of happiness,” Father Kirby said. “And so for some people, happiness is a synonym for euphoria or pleasure; while for others, it means always getting their own way.”
These definitions of what constitutes happiness fall short and cannot endure reality, according to Father Kirby. “The Lord Jesus, therefore, presented us with the beatitudes. He gave them to us as a path to sure and lasting happiness. And this is the happiness for which we were created.”
Contrary to the view that is posited throughout our world, happiness does not mean freedom from sorrow or difficulty of any kind. “True happiness welcomes suffering and allows it to have a greater meaning and purpose in our lives and in the world around us,” Father Kirby said.
Father Kirby has been encouraged by the impact the book and the #BeBlessedChallenge are having all over the world.
“It’s been encouraging to see prayer groups in Quebec, groups in Nigeria, folks in London and people throughout the United States take the challenge and seek to follow a new path to happiness,” he said.
The fruits of the challenge will lead people to happiness of their own, by living as we are called by Jesus to live — perhaps seeing things in a new light. “In the course of the challenge, it’s our hope that people will see their own lives from a different perspective,” Father Kirby said.
The hope is that the challenge will be more than a fleeting social media curiosity. Rather, it should lead to a permanent amendment of life. “In the end,” Father Kirby said, “the challenge concludes with the person making new resolutions to live the beatitudes on a more permanent basis in the multiple different areas of life.”
The book ultimately is about the happiness that comes from Christ. As Father Kirby succinctly summarizes, “Happiness is being bold enough to live as a child of God.”
More information can be found at: BeBlessedChallenge.com.
Paul Senz writes from Oregon.