Teenage life inspires authentic additions to the Beatitudes


I started my teaching career in a high school math class. Mathematics is equal parts theory and application. I’m fine with the theory, up to a point, but I love the application part. I had a giant chart in my first classroom titled “When will I use it?” with topics and applications galore. This poster was a useful inspiration for students when I was teaching “how to find x”.

As my teaching subjects expanded to include computer programming and later theology, the need for a “real world” application arose. It was easy to find apps for writing code; theology was a little harder.

Part of my ethics course curriculum involves the Beatitudes. Most adults can pull the Beatitudes, or bits of them, from memory or lived experience. Few of my students had this training; their theological training had focused more on the “Don’t” statements of the Ten Commandments.

My students began their study of the Beatitudes just as the last of the Chronicles of the National Catholic Reporter by Joan Chittister about them has been published. The timing was perfect. After reading various biblical texts translationseach student used one of Chittister’s columns as a starting point.

There followed intense debates and dialogues on the Beatitudes. What was Jesus saying, what was Chittister challenging the reader to consider, and what can a group of 16-year-olds in the northern United States do? We thought about what a lived world with a focus on bliss would look like. All agreed that it would be very different from the world we have now.

My students asked if they could rewrite the Beatitudes for 2022: They wanted to name and draw attention to underrepresented or ignored groups who need to be called “Blessed” now. Each student created eight new beatitudes, I compiled and edited them, and with their permission, I offer our additional beatitudes for consideration:

Blessed are those who dream and believe, who influence and inspire.

No one can achieve anything without dreaming. Dreams can lead to innovation and progress. Believing in God is important, but we need people who believe in others and in themselves. The world is full of influencers on social media. While many are not positive role models, there are others who offer inspiration.

Blessed are those who find it difficult to know what to do with their lives.

With so many choices available, it’s really hard to find your true passion. Many people find it difficult to commit. Some feel rushed, rushed and desperate because there are so many options and so little advice.

Blessed are those who feel/are broken.

There are more and more ways to define and express yourself. Among them are racial, gender and sexual identities. Judgment is quick and understanding is lacking. Panic and fear must be replaced by understanding, comfort and peace. Or at the very least a listening ear.

Happy those who fail.

Believe it or not, everyone has to learn to fail. Failure can be scary, and we also need to learn from it. Our society is driven by success at all costs, and often defined as external to ourselves. So we all have to learn to fail or, to put it differently, to recognize that we are not experts in everything and that we all have things to learn, until the day we die.

Happy the moody teenagers.

In the third year of COVID school, teenagers are relearning how to interact with their peers and adults. “Attitude” is the day-to-day experience to be negotiated as they strive to return to normal life. A lot of maturation and growth is happening, and it’s not an easy road. Patience and encouragement are most needed.

Blessed are those who struggle to find God.

Russia invaded Ukraine. It is almost impossible to avoid media coverage of atrocities. Racial discrimination persists and there are almost daily reports of new atrocities involving the Catholic Church. In many ways, God seems absent, and people struggle to decide whether they should even bother to seek God.

Happy are the problem solvers.

Those who have dedicated their lives to mRNA research, which has developed COVID vaccines in record time; IT professionals who empowered people to find ways to connect digitally; and everyone and everything else. Humans face unforeseen challenges daily, and it takes the problem solvers among us to keep everything going, to spread hope in the face of hopelessness and hopelessness.

And finally, the new favorite beatitude of my students:

Blessed are those who are toxic.

Them too. have things to teach us. Everyone must learn to “be” with each other. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is to see how not to behave, to see in others (because we don’t see it in ourselves) hurtful, damaging, mean behavior. Putting a new spin on an old ad slogan: Who DOESN’T want to “be like Mike?”


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