Pope Publishes New Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate”
On April 9, Pope Francis published his third Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, subtitled On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. The title is taken from the end of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” The Holy Father states that his intention in writing the document is to “re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities.” This new document is particularly relevant – and exciting! – for the laity, who are called to bring the light of Christ into the ordinary tasks of their daily life in the world.
The document is composed of 5 chapters: the call to holiness; two subtle enemies of holiness present in the world today; “in the light of the Master,” Jesus as the model of holiness; signs (or “spiritual attitudes”) of holiness in the world today; and spiritual combat, vigilance, and discernment. Wishing to emphasize that holiness is a call for all the baptized, the pope writes of several examples of saints who lived out holiness in very different ways, such as Francis of Assisi, Josephine Bakhita, Teresa of Calcutta, and Thomas Aquinas.
It is in our daily lives as “ordinary” people, the little moments, where we can become holy, particularly in service to others – whether that means living virtuously at home among your spouse and children, welcoming migrants, serving the poor in your area, and other spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Holy lives are shaped by the beatitudes and other virtues proposed by Scripture and Tradition, but choosing to follow Christ can be a battlefield. It is with the help of prayer and the grace of the sacraments that we can become the holy men and women God calls us to be.
Below are a few paragraphs taken from the Exhortation. The entire document can be found at the Vatican’s website.
“I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’.” (7)
“We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out 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 labouring 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.” (14)
“This is a powerful summons to all of us. You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.” (23)
“Only on the basis of God’s gift, freely accepted and humbly received, can we cooperate by our own efforts in our progressive transformation. We must first belong to God, offering ourselves to him who was there first, and entrusting to him our abilities, our efforts, our struggle against evil and our creativity, so that his free gift may grow and develop within us: “I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). For that matter, the Church has always taught that charity alone makes growth in the life of grace possible, for “if I do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).” (56)
“We may think that we give glory to God only by our worship and prayer, or simply by following certain ethical norms. It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others. Prayer is most precious, for it nourishes a daily commitment to love. Our worship becomes pleasing to God when we devote ourselves to living generously, and allow God’s gift, granted in prayer, to be shown in our concern for our brothers and sisters.” (104)
“The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is made up of small everyday things. This was true of the holy community formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, which reflected in an exemplary way the beauty of the Trinitarian communion. It was also true of the life that Jesus shared with his disciples and with ordinary people.” (143)
“When, in God’s presence, we examine our life’s journey, no areas can be off limits. In all aspects of life we can continue to grow and offer something greater to God, even in those areas we find most difficult. We need, though, to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us and to expel the fear that makes us ban him from certain parts of our lives. God asks everything of us, yet he also gives everything to us. He does not want to enter our lives to cripple or diminish them, but to bring them to fulfilment. Discernment, then, is…an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which he has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.” (175)