The Gloria opens with the words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These words, drawn from Scripture (see Luke 2:14), echo the longing of our hearts as we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace at Christmas and begin a new calendar year.
The new year began with the World Day of Peace on January 1. See Pope Francis’s Message for the Fiftieth World Day of Peace and note his emphasis on nonviolence. As he opens his message, he writes, “At the beginning of this New Year,… I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our ‘deepest dignity,’ and make active nonviolence our way of life” (1).
In his message, Pope Francis refers to the Beatitudes as Jesus’ “‘manual’ for this strategy of peacemaking.” He continues, “The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice” (6).
Judith Costello uses the Beatitudes as the foundation for teaching the virtues we should strive for in Learning by Heart: All Eight Beatitudes in CATECHIST magazine. Whether you choose to focus on one Beatitude or share all eight over time, you and your students will grow in understanding these important characteristics of those who seek peace and justice.
Several observances in the month ahead remind us we’re called to be people of peace and justice—in the areas of migration, religious freedom, Christian unity, and life. The words of another song “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me” tell us where our realization of world peace must begin—within each of us: in our hearts, our homes, our classrooms, our parishes. Start the year with a clear vision of the peace and justice you will foster in your own life and the lives of the children and families you serve.
As you guide the children in your life to moral and peaceable living, Dr. Joseph White offers some inspiring guidance in his article The Ten Commandments of Forming Catholic Conscience and Character in CATECHIST magazine.