Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Church of the Beatitudes

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published December 1, 2016

2016 12 01 GB Father James Behrens, OCSO The Church of the BeatitudesThere is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church overlooking the Sea of Galilee, near Tabgha and Capernaum in Israel. It is called the Church of the Beatitudes, for it stands on the site traditionally accepted as the place where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes. Pilgrims have made their way to the site since the fourth century.

There is a path leading up to the church and the path is lined on both sides with rose bushes. The roses are beautiful. There are reds and oranges, pinks and whites, peach colored and lavenders and yellows. And there are plaques on which are engraved each of the Beatitudes: the words of comfort Jesus spoke to the merciful, the poor, the meek, the poor in spirit, to those hungering for justice, to those who make peace.

It is a very quiet place. There are no signs asking for silence. Such signs are not necessary. When people slowly walk along the path to the church, they stop and look at the gorgeous beauty of the roses and words that came from the heart of Jesus. The blend of the Beatitudes and the roses has a natural magic-like effect on whoever walks, reads and ponders along the path. They experience the deep peace of the place and instinctively know that they are walking along a sacred and beautiful path.

People from all over the world have walked that path—people of many colors, languages, faiths, cultures and ways of being in this world. There are not many places on this earth where one can sense a commonality among people that is more real and more striking than any differences we may have. These differences indeed remain but do so with, I hope, a deepened sense of their meaning, of why God created us with such an array of variations.

The roses gently sway in the breeze, perhaps a breeze coming in from the Sea of Galilee. The same breeze that Jesus would have taken into his lungs long ago, and then exhaled, and spoke what must surely be among the most beautiful and hopeful words ever spoken.

The roses take in the breeze, too. They need it to live, to grow, to blossom into their dazzling array of colors.

We need God to live. God breathed life into us, and we walk through this life with our differences, our variations, our hues of color and shape. And every now and then we may be fortunate to find ourselves on a path to a city, a country, a festival, a surprise party for a friend. And we will once again mingle with difference, with those who may share this spot we call earth, but who do not share our ways of being or seeing in this world.

But there is a path that leads to a beautiful church and there are words and roses, and they are from God. They speak to each other of warm and redemptive mysteries: mysteries that invite us to walk among the words and gaze at the beauty of the roses, and know that there will come a day when we will learn from the differences that exist and bloom among ourselves.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at