In his latest Apostolic Exhortation, “Guadete et Exsultate” (“Joy and Exaltation”): On the Call to Holiness, our Holy Father Pope Francis has given us all a wonderful reflection on what it means to be holy in the world today. An apostolic exhortation is not a statement regarding a particular church doctrine. Its purpose, as defined by Wikipedia, is to encourage all the members of the Church “to undertake a particular activity…It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but [is] higher than other…papal writings.”
In Article 14 of this Exhortation, Pope Francis reminds us that holiness is not “only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer [such as the clergy or those who have taken religious vows]. We are called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness ineverything we do, wherever we find ourselves.”
He asks: “Are you called to consecrated life [i.e. priesthood, diaconate, religious life]? Be holy by living your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”
In Articles 15-16, he goes on to encourage us to let the grace of our baptism bear the fruit of holiness by allowing everything in our lives to be open to God, to “turn to Him in every situation…[that] the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to do this…[that holiness] will grow through small gestures.” He gives a concrete example in a woman who goes shopping:
“She meets a neighbor…and the gossip starts. She says in her heart, ‘No, I will not speak badly of anyone.’ This is a step forward in holiness. Later…one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word…One more step.” This is how we are led by God’s grace and are shaped into the holiness God wills for us “by many small gestures.” (Article 18).
It is a beautiful teaching that I encourage everyone to read. It is available online by going to your search engine and typing in “Gaudete et Exsultate.” In very simple terms, as he usually writes, our Holy Father is reminding us that holiness is something all the followers of the Risen Christ are called to pursue; something this ever-secularizing world, and each and every one of us, needs now more than ever.
Sorry the playoffs ended badly for the Flyers, but the City of Champions still has high hopes!
LET’S GO SIXERS AND PHILLIES!
In His Love,