Today I made pierogi for the first time, the meat and vegetable kind. The dough was not right. I won’t be serving the results to anyone. Instead I’ll have to eat forty perogi myself! The process of cooking them, though, prompted some reflections on life. We are all in the business of producing a life. We have a recipe, thanks to Jesus Christ. His Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11) are a list of ingredients for happiness. Leaving out one or more of them will yield an imperfect life. In case you’ve misplaced your “recipe,” here is a copy, along with an example of each from today’s news. (It helps to have someone demonstrate the steps in a recipe.)
• Be poor in spirit. In other words, don’t be greedy for material things, don’t be a hoarder. Look to God to provide all you need. Pope Benedict is content to leave all the trappings of the papacy—the gold, the travel, the presents—and live simply.
• Mourn. Be sad at the sin in the world, your own sins and other people’s. Bear others’ sorrows with them. Witness the shared grief and outpouring of help and support for Newtown, CT after the tragic school shootings.
• Be meek. It takes strength to live gently and to refrain from bossiness, ostentation, and anger. When the actress Melissa McCarthy was cruelly and childishly criticized for being overweight, she didn’t respond but kept a dignified silence.
• Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Desire that all people be treated fairly. President Obama stands for helping the needy.
• Be merciful. Forgive those who hurt you. Have a heart for people who are in trouble. Andy and Kate Grosmaire forgave the young man who shot and killed their daughter. They visit him in prison each month.
• Be clean of heart. Live according to God’s laws even those that are unpopular and counter cultural. A few celebrities refuse to pose nude for magazines.
• Be a peacemaker. Put an end to conflict. Promote peace. Every day thousands of police officers risk their lives in order to keep neighborhoods safe and peaceful.
• Be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for justice. Malala Housafzai, a young Pakastani girl, spoke out for equal education for girls was attacked by the Taliban for it.
• Be persecuted for believing in Jesus. In today’s secular world, faith is sometimes mocked. Every day Christians in Arab countries are killed by fanatics for practicing their faith.
Perogi dough must be kneaded for ten minutes. Then it must rest for from ten minutes to a half hour. Jesus invites, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” We need down time to live at our optimum. We also need time just to “be” with God.
Circles of dough folded over the filling must be sealed completely, or the perogi will come apart in the water. Each day ought to be sealed with prayer at the start and the end. This will keep us from coming apart.
The perogi is boiled in water and then fried. It’s fire that turns the doughy lump into something delicious. Likewise, difficulties and, yes, persecution can bring us to perfection!
Then the kitchen has to be cleaned up, the flour and bits of vegetables swept off the floor and the many dishes and pots washed. We too need to clean up the messes in our lives: reestablish broken relationships, finish projects, repent of sins and be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance. Lent is just the time to do this.
May you have more success with your life than I had with my pierogi!
Which Beatitude is most challenging for you? Who do you know who is a prime example of one of the Beatitudes?