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INTERVIEW: American Priest Gives ‘Beatitude Challenge’ to Catholics

January 9, 2018. Fr. Kirby Reminds We Have Been Given a Time-tested, Saint-Producing Path to Happiness

Father Jeffrey Kirby is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Grace in Indian Land, South Carolina. He studied in Rome and received his doctorate from Holy Cross University. Recently, he launched a program through Saint Benedict Press to motivate people to seek happiness through the Beatitudes.

***

ZENIT: Father Kirby, tell us about the Be Blessed Challenge.

Fr. Kirby: The challenge asks people to take the Beatitudes at face value. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Beatitudes are given to us as a sure path to happiness. Regrettably, many people in the world are seeking happiness through empty or incomplete ways. On account of these decisions, a lot of people become disillusioned or feel stuck in misery. They assume that happiness is a lofty dream that’s beyond us, as if it’s some kind of childhood dream.

The Beatitudes, however, offer us hope by showing us a different way. The Be Blessed Challenge points us to this path to happiness.

ZENIT: Happiness through the Beatitudes? Wouldn’t that require some suffering?

Fr. Kirby: Yes, the Challenge addresses the dynamics between suffering and happiness. It stresses that the two co-exist because happiness isn’t just about us. It depends on a proper relationship with God and our neighbor. And this openness leads us to realize that happiness isn’t a synonym for pleasure, or a euphoric high, or the accomplishment of a perfect state of affairs based on our desires.

Happiness is something more. It’s about laboring for goodness in ourselves so that we can be of greater good to others. It’s serving and helping others to see goodness in themselves and assisting them in letting it flourish.

ZENIT: And the Challenge is a multi-faceted project? Could you describe some of the different parts of the Challenge?

Fr. Kirby: Yes, the project has three parts.

It began with the book, Kingdom of Happiness: Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life. It was distributed last month as Christmas gifts in parishes throughout the English-speaking areas of the Church. The book consists of eight chapters which cover each of the beatitudes in a biblical context and then applies them. As a part of this application, each chapter contains a prayer, examples from the trenches of life, an examination of conscience, and a highlight of respective virtues, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and tenets of the Lord’s Prayer. The book was written as a type of “school of discipleship.”

After the book, we launched the website BeBlessedChallenge.com. This is the active part of the project. We’re calling on people to engage the Beatitudes! We want people – many people – to make the resolution on the website to live the Beatitudes in a deeper way and/or nominate someone that’s known to exemplify them in their life.

Lastly, this month a new DVD series on the Beatitudes, also called Kingdom of Happiness, will be released. The series will provide further biblical teaching on the Beatitudes but it will also give an in-depth profile on actual people in regular situations of life who have found happiness through the Beatitudes. Powerful stories of loss, hope, mercy are included in these profiles.

The focus of the DVD program is to show how others have lived the Beatitudes and how honest and eminently practical they are to us and to our desire for happiness.

ZENIT: This sounds like a lot of work. You’re a parish priest and have several other duties. Why lead this Challenge?

Fr. Kirby: [laughing] I’m working on this Challenge because, precisely through my pastoral work and teaching, I realize how hard good people are fighting against vice and yet have forgotten virtue and the Beatitudes. I see people who want to believe in happiness but find themselves bewildered by evil and suffering. I see a lot of hopelessness and it upsets me.

As a human family, we have been given a powerful, time-tested, saint-producing path to happiness. We’ve been given the Beatitudes. And in the throes of life, it seems these eight beautiful and clear counsels and their blessings can be forgotten. But I don’t want us to forget them and so I hope the Be Blessed Challenge helps us to see the goal, know the course, and realize everyday that happiness is real and can be lived in our lives today.