The Eight Doors of
Meditations on the Beatitudes
By Father Jacques Philippe
224 pages, $13.95
or (800) 322-8773
Father Jacques Philippe has authored yet another insightful book on faith and the interior life — this time addressing the mystery of the beatitudes. The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes opens for readers each of the “doors” to everlasting happiness Christ promised in his preaching on the blessings listed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Father Philippe is an incredibly engaging author and preacher, and his books, such as Searching for and Maintaining Peace, are widely acclaimed as offering profound, yet accessible, reflections for modern readers.
In the introduction to this new gem, a clear explanation as to why — out of all of the possible dimensions of Christianity to address — he chose to comment on one of the most paradoxical passages of the Gospel is presented. Earnestly concerned, he observes:
“Today’s world is sick with pride.” In contrast, the beatitudes form “a complete treatise on the spiritual life,” one that “encompasses all the novelty of the Gospel, all its wisdom and its power to transform profoundly the hearts of men and renew the world.”
The Eight Doors of the Kingdom is a rich contemplation of each one of the eight beatitudes (with the ninth treated as an amplification of the eighth).
Accompanying the author’s personal observations are citations to Scripture and traditional Catholic authors, particularly the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, reflecting the depth of his knowledge and prayerful soul.
One remarkable attribute of The Eight Doors is that each citation is so rich that it could inspire its own 30-minute (or more) prayerful moment of meditation.
Consider the introductory observations that the beatitudes are “a path toward the happiness of the Kingdom,” reflective of the “Trinitarian mystery,” “a portrait of Jesus himself” and “a description of [the new heart] that the Holy Spirit fashions in us, which is the very heart of Christ.”
While the book addresses each beatitude separately in recognition of its own specific nature and value (mournful, meek, merciful, etc.) and attendant reward (inheriting the Kingdom, consolation, mercy, etc.), Father Phillipe also posits that each of the beatitudes is “intrinsically interrelated” and that “[p]robing deeply into any one of them leads to the others.” Depending on our personal vocation and the unique stage of life, he continues, the “particular entrance to the mystery of the one true Kingdom for each of us” will depend on us living “one or another of the Beatitudes more fully.”
This prepossessing book pays particular tribute to the first beatitude, “poverty of spirit”: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. According to Father Phillipe, “poorness of spirit is the key to the spiritual life, indeed to any path toward saintliness and fruitfulness.” With vivid examples of the interior poverty of Moses, as recounted in the Old Testament, he observes that such humility was borne of suffering and “the experience of God.”
“An experience of God, and therefore of faith, contains an intrinsic note of humility,” the priest writes.
Much as Pope Francis highlighted in his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Father Phillipe reminds readers that “[t]rue faith has no arrogance.”
Subsequent chapters beautifully illuminate the nature of and the promises that flow from meekness, the thirst for justice, the role of mercy, the perfection of the grace of peace, and the integral connection between suffering and persecution due to our fidelity to Christ and our eternal happiness.
Living the beatitudes is a call to personal conversion, but its manifestation has a community dimension: “[H]ow can you be poor apart from relation to another, how do you practice meekness or patience or humility without close partners in life?” As the “first and most essential of all Christian communities,” the priest-author remarks that within our family is where many can “experience our own poverty and that of others.” Consequently, he urges:
“[L]et’s also hope many families hear this call more clearly than ever and model this Gospel ideal instead of the spirit of the world.”
In a tender and unassuming way so characteristic of its author, The Eight Doors offers readers the keys to enter through the doors of the beatitudes and experience true happiness in Christ.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is a legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.