Practical Beatitudes

Dear Parishioners,

Back In the 1950s, there was a young navy doctor, fresh out of medical school. His name was Tom Dooley. One afternoon, Tom's ship picked up a thousand refugees off the coast of Vietnam.

Tom was the only doctor on board so he had to start helping these people. Soon an excitement grew inside him. He saw how a simple cast soothed a broken arm. He saw how a simple lancing relieved a swollen hand. He saw how the simplest medical treatment brought smiles to pain-filled faces.

Tom saw something else. He saw that helping these people made him happier than he had ever been in his whole life. After his time in the navy, Tom went back to Asia to work among the poor.

At one time, Tom confided to a colleague that he had always loved the Sermon on the Mount, especially the Beatitudes. One reason he loved them was because they promised happiness.

"Blessed means 'happy,'" Tom said, "and that's what I want to be." He then shared his own personal vision of the Beatitudes. He used one of them to illustrate:

"'Blessed are they who mourn' means something special to me. 'Mourn,' as used in the Bible, doesn't mean to be unhappy. It simply means to be more aware of the sorrow in the world than of the pleasure."

"If you're extra sensitive to sorrow and do something to make it lighter, you can't help but be happy. That's just the way it is."

Tom's vision of the Beatitudes is both different and refreshing. It is different because we usually think of the Beatitudes as being addressed only to the sorrowing: the poor, the hungry, the homeless. Tom sees them as also being addressed to those who help these people. This is what makes his vision so different.

Tom's vision of the Beatitudes is also refreshing. We don't just read the Beatitudes and rejoice that God will someday make sad people happy. On the contrary, we are motivated to want to do something to help these people, just as Tom did.


Sincerely in Christ,
Father Dominick