12 Apr 2018
Pope Francis Exhorts Everyone to Holiness in Today’s World
(ANS – Vatican City – April 9) – Pope Francis’s newest apostolic exhortation was presented to the public at a Vatican press conference today. In the introduction of the text, entitled Gaudete et Exsultate, on the call to holiness in today’s world, the Holy Father writes, “My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities.”
The Pontiff articulates his exhortation through 177 sections, developed in five chapters. In the first chapter, the fundamental assumption of the exhortation stands out: holiness is not something other or different from everyday life, but ordinary life lived extraordinarily. This is why the Pope cites examples of daily holiness: “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 the second, the Pope presents two dangers for holiness: Gnosticism and Pelagianism. On the first, which attributes excessive value to religious knowledge, the Pope warns against the risk of transforming the Christian experience into a set of mental ruminations; as for the second, he denounces the attitude or belief of those who “ultimately trust only in their own powers,” forgetting that “not everyone can do everything, and that in this life human weaknesses are not healed completely and once for all by grace…. As St. Augustine taught, God commands you to do what you can and to ask for what you cannot.”
In the third chapter, the Pontiff analyzes what may be considered the “rule” of the Christian life, the Beatitudes. Examining them one by one, he presents how it is precisely through the fulfillment of deeds that holiness manifests itself.
In the fourth chapter, Pope Francis presents characteristics especially suitable for today’s Christians to take on as they traverse the path of holiness. They range from the most easily predictable ones – constant prayer, perseverance, patience, meekness – to others perhaps less expected – joy and a sense of humor, for example – without ever forgetting the need to act with boldness and passion, on a path that is always done in community.
Finally, in the last chapter the Pope does not deny that the path to holiness is also made of combat and vigilance: against a worldly mentality, against our human weakness and proclivities, but also, clearly, in the constant struggle against the devil.