When I was a catechism student at the San Gabriel Mission, the sermon on the mount was boiled down to a rather colorful poster on the wall. The words were there, but my whole goal was to memorize them so I could get to snack (Oreos and Capri Sun) early. When I was a teenager and I was a part of Youth Groups, the Sermon on the Mount was told to me as part of a self-help guide to happiness. Granted, yes I might be happier if I applied each one of these on these to my life on a daily basis. None of this however brought these words to life.
Sr. Lydia Schneider, was a part of the Sisters of Charity of the Infant Mary. From Sacramento, she once told me her conversion story from Methodist to Roman Catholic and it went like this: “I love jelly donuts, and as a child, my church only sprung for the glazed donuts, while the Roman Catholic Church across the street had the jelly donuts. So I started going to Sunday School over at the Catholic, to get the jelly donuts.”
Some people are called by Jesus, other by jelly donuts, but all for the greater glory of God! Nevertheless, Sr. Lydia entered the convent when she was 18 years old. Fast forward 35 years, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with her. As Director of Hispanic Ministries, she was a whirlwind of energy and happiness. Dedicated to working in Salinas, CA, which at the time had the highest amount of gang violence in the state, she met a lot of resistance.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
See people thought she was “just a nun”, but she wasn’t at all. She was a nun with a Master’s Degree, and more than that, she was the embodiment of “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. People held symposiums in civic centers and invited experts to comment, Sr. Lydia went to the grandmothers of those young people in the gangs in the city and brought them together. People held fancy galas and dinners, Sr. Lydia brought the families of gang members, together for reconciliation in the local Sunday School room and invited the sheriffs’ department to be a part of it.
Sr. Lydia brought those words to life for me, and it was then that I started to see what the Beattitudes could be. They can be brought to life by anyone, willing to live into some pretty tough challenges yes, but they are an important step in living into the world that God wants for us. Be the peacemaker, be merciful, seek righteousness, lift up the poor in spirit and if you are persecuted for any of this, your reward is the Kingdom of God.