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Posted February 13, 2008

Book: The Royal Road to Joy: The Beatitudes and the Eucharist
Author: David Bird, OSB
Hillenbrand Books. Chicago. Mundelein, IL. 2007. Pp. 249

An Excerpt from the Preface:

Here was I in a secular parish, a Benedictine monk, who, due to circumstances, was thousands of miles away from my monastery in Hereford, and hundreds of miles from our house in Peru, trying to preach the Gospel. As an English Benedictine, I had help of Jean Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit, whose classic work, Abandonment to Divine Providence, has aided many monks to live, sometimes in their monastery, sometimes on the mission, with a certain amount of spiritual coherence and continuity. He taught that we should seek God’s presence in the concrete circumstances of our lives, in what he called “the sacrament of the moment,” and that the obstacle to seeking God is our own self-will. This is completely in keeping with the Rule of Saint Benedict, yet he generalizes the teaching and makes it applicable to any situation, including mine. Nevertheless, I wanted to explore further; and the rain gave me the opportunity to do so. However, as though with a will of its own, the book turned away from my narrow little life and opened up horizons big enough to share with others.

I started with the Beatitudes, and I soon found that they are as full of surprises as the roads around San Miguel. It had never occurred to me before that they are a complete spiritual program which show us the various stages of Christian conversion, and that their teaching is identical to that found in the Desert Fathers, in the Patristic Tradition, and in the Rule of St. Benedict. Read in another way, they show us the permanent ingredients of Christian holiness.

In a previous parish called Negritos, on the Pacific coast in northern Peru, I had had the privilege to work iwth the American Sisters of Charity of Fort Leavenworth; and they had so impressed me that I went into the spirituality of Saint Vincent de Paul. Reading the Beatitudes, I now see how they impregnated his teaching with their light. The Beatitudes are basic to all Christian spiritualities.

Not only did I come to see the Beatitudes as a description of the process of Christian conversion, of our way to God; I also saw the connection between the Beatitudes and the Mass. Both, at different levels, bring us through the death and resurrection of Christ into the presence of the Father. It is an important characteristic of Benedictine experience that spirituality and liturgy are intimately connected as two dimensions of the same reality. It was this insight that led to the liturgical movement, which began in monasteries as a monastic concern and then spilled out into the Church at large and produced such tremendous results during and after the Second Vatican Council.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

Shalom in Hebrew and irene in Greek, which we translate as “peace,” is so full of meaning that it can scarcely be translated by one English word. As well as harmony and tranquillity, it contains the idea of perfection, a situation in which nothing is missing: it is synonymous with all that is contained in salvation. This peace is a gift from God in both Old and New Testaments, and involves perfect harmony with him. It was the normal Christian greeting and, as such, it was more than a mere wish: it was a word that received its power from God and actually bestowed what it signified. If it was rejected, the peace returned to the person who gave the greeting (Matthew 10:13). As peace is communion with God, it is given by preaching the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) and reigns in the hearts of Christians who are joined in the peace of the body of Christ (Colossians 3:15).

The peace that this world knows is a balance of opposing forces so that people can live in tranquillity. The third temptation of Christ was to make some arrangement between the contrary claims of God and the devil so that the world could live in peace and prosperity. This is a temptation of human beings at their man-made best. Another way of acquiring a kind of peace is by escapism, by pretending that problems do not exist, by burying our heads in the sand by living in a fantasy world. Hence, there are many examples in the Old Testament of false prophets proclaiming peace when there was on peace: anything for a comfortable life (Jeremiah 6:16; 8:11; 28:9).

Those of us who are religiously inclined can seek peace in a comfortable religion in which God’s claims are reduced to make room for our own. We strive to get rid of those vices that cannot live in harmony with our self-image but leave in place those with which we are comfortable. We can even misuse the sacrament of Confession so that our sins won’t accumulate and thus dent our self-image, rather than making a serious attempt at conversion. The Gospel directly attacks all those versions of peace which become an obstacle to acquiring the real thing, the peace which is a gift form God. Hence our Lord’s words that he brings the sword rather than peace.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: The Beatitudes

1. The Beatitudes and the Eucharist

2. Introducing the Beatitudes

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit

4. Blessed are they who mourn

5. Blessed are the meek

6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst

7. Blessed are the merciful

8. Blessed are the pure in heart

9. Blessed are the peacemakers

10. Blessed are those who are persecuted

11. St. Seraphim of Sarov

12. St. John Mary Vianney

13. Two saints on the same road to joy

14. The royal road to joy

Part 2: The Mass

15. Introducing the Mass

16. The gathering of the assembly

17. The sign of the cross

18. The Lord be with you

19. The penitential rite, Gloria and Collect

20. The liturgy of the Word

21. Our reaction to the Word, the homily, creed, and prayer of the faithful

22. Liturgy of the Eucharist

23. The presentation of the gifts

24. The Eucharistic prayer

25. The communion rite

26. Good liturgy: bad liturgy

27. Ite Missa Est