Highlights from Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate


Highlights from Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, 2018)

Chapter I – The Call to Holiness

  • not perfect…moving forward | “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved to be pleasing to the Lord.” (Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, §3)
  • for everyone | “[A]ll the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect” (Lumen Gentium, §11, GE, §10)
  • I’m a sinner. It’s God’s work. | “[H]oliness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10).” (Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, §15)
  • Small Gestures | “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, 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 to him. One more step.” (§16)
    • “I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way.” (§17)
  • Mistakes…No Pressure | “Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life,” (§22)
  • Pace | “How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God? Finding that space may prove painful but it is always fruitful.” (Francis, G&E, §29)

Chapter II – Two Subtle Enemies of Holiness

  • a God of Surprises | “God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence.” (§41)
  • Don’t Judge Me | “God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life.” (§42)
  • to know & to love | “what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love. Indeed, “you learn so as to live: theology and holiness are inseparable”. (§45)
    • St. Francis to St. Anthony of Padua: “I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, provided that… you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion during study of this kind”. (cited in GE, §46)
  • Be patient with yourself. | “Grace, precisely because it builds on nature, does not make us superhuman all at once. That kind of thinking would show too much confidence in our own abilities.” (§50)
  • Loneliness | “Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear.” (§51)
  • God’s Initiative | “Even the desire to be cleansed comes about in us through the outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit” (Second Synod of Orange, quoted in GE, §53)
  • Total Dependence | “The saints avoided putting trust in their own works: “In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you empty-handed, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justices have stains in your sight”.[60] (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “Act of Offering to Merciful Love,” quoted in GE §54)
  • Two Faces | “[A]mid the thicket of precepts and prescriptions, Jesus clears a way to seeing two faces, that of the Father and that of our brother. He does not give us two more formulas or two more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. For in every one of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenceless and those in need, God’s very image is found.” (§61)

Chapter III – In the Light of the Master

  • Identity Card | “The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card…In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives” (§63).

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

  • Self-Secure | “The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life.” (§67)
  • Spiritual Poverty = Holy Indifference | “This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what Saint Ignatius of Loyola calls “holy indifference”, which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: “We need to train ourselves to be indifferent in our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden; so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest”.[68]” (Spiritual Exercises, 23d, quoted in GE, §69).
  • Poverty as a Virtue | “Luke does not speak of poverty “of spirit” but simply of those who are “poor” (cf. Lk 6:20). In this way, he too invites us to live a plain and austere life.” (§70)

Blessed are the Meek

  • Pigeonholing Pride | “…where we constantly pigeonhole others on the basis of their ideas, their customs and even their way of speaking or dressing. Ultimately, it is the reign of pride and vanity, where each person thinks he or she has the right to dominate others.” (§71)
  • Meekness & Rest | Christ says: “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29). If we are constantly upset and impatient with others, we will end up drained and weary. But if we regard the faults and limitations of others with tenderness and meekness, without an air of superiority, we can actually help them and stop wasting our energy on useless complaining. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux tells us that “perfect charity consists in putting up with others’ mistakes, and not being scandalized by their faults”.[69]” (§72)
  • It Could Happen to You | “…if a wrongful action of one of our brothers or sisters troubles us, we should try to correct them, but “with a spirit of meekness”, since “you too could be tempted” (Gal 6:1).” (§73)
  • The Fulfillment of All Desire | ““If I am that meek, they will think that I am an idiot, a fool or a weakling”. At times they may, but so be it. It is always better to be meek, for then our deepest desires will be fulfilled. The meek “shall inherit the earth”, for they will see God’s promises accomplished in their lives. In every situation, the meek put their hope in the Lord, and those who hope for him shall possess the land… and enjoy the fullness of peace (cf. Ps 37:9.11). For his part, the Lord trusts in them: “This is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word” (Is 66:2).” (§74)

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

  • Compassion | “Much energy is expended on fleeing from situations of suffering in the belief that reality can be concealed. But the cross can never be absent. A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness.[70] He or she is consoled, not by the world but by Jesus. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds.” (§75-76)

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Blessed are the Merciful

  • Yardstick of Forgiveness | “The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this.” (§81)
  • Army of the Forgiven | “We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion.” (§82)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for They Will See God

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for They Will be Called Children of God

  • Gossip | “I may hear something about someone and I go off and repeat it. I may even embellish it the second time around and keep spreading it… And the more harm it does, the more satisfaction I seem to derive from it. The world of gossip, inhabited by negative and destructive people, does not bring peace. Such people are really the enemies of peace; in no way are they “blessed”.[73]” (§87)
  • Those Who Are A Bit Odd | “It is not easy to “make” this evangelical peace, which excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work; it calls for great openness of mind and heart, since it is not about creating “a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority”,[75]” (§89)
  • Artisans of Peace | “We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill.” (§89)

Blessed are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

  • Mediocrity | “Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “whoever would save his life will lose it” (Mt 16:25).” (§90)
  • The Cross | “Whatever weariness and pain we may experience in living the commandment of love and following the way of justice, the cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification.” (§92)

The Great Criterion: In Fidelity to the Master

  • Serve the Poor. Period. | “The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.[84]” (§101)
    • “We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the “grave” bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him (cf. Mt 25:35)? Saint Benedict did so readily, and though it might have “complicated” the life of his monks, he ordered that all guests who knocked at the monastery door be welcomed “like Christ”,[85] with a gesture of veneration;[86] the poor and pilgrims were to be met with “the greatest care and solicitude”.[87]” (§102)
    • “A similar approach is found in the Old Testament: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22:21). “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev 19:33-34). This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad. In today’s world too, we are called to follow the path of spiritual wisdom proposed by the prophet Isaiah to show what is pleasing to God. “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (58:7-8).” (§103)

The Great Criterion: The Worship Most Acceptable to God

  • True Prayer | “…the best way to discern if our prayer is authentic is to judge to what extent our life is being transformed in the light of mercy” (§105)
  • Simplicity of Life | “We will find it hard to feel and show any real concern for those in need, unless we are able to cultivate a certain simplicity of life,” (§108)
  • Practical | “Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice.” (§109)

Chapter IV – Signs of Holiness in Today’s World

  • The Saints and the Tongue | “The saints do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters, and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others. Saints hesitate to treat others harshly; they consider others better than themselves (cf. Phil 2:3).” (§116)
  • Keep the Devil at Bay | “St. John of the Cross…advice on how to keep the devil at bay: “Rejoice in the good of others as if it were your own, and desire that they be given precedence over you in all things; this you should do wholeheartedly. You will thereby overcome evil with good, banish the devil, and possess a happy heart. Try to practise this all the more with those who least attract you. Realize that if you do not train yourself in this way, you will not attain real charity or make any progress in it”.[97]” (§117)
  • Humiliation | “Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations. Without them, there is no humility or holiness. If you are unable to suffer and offer up a few humiliations, you are not humble and you are not on the path to holiness. The holiness that God bestows on his Church comes through the humiliation of his Son. He is the way. Humiliation makes you resemble Jesus; it is an unavoidable aspect of the imitation of Christ…For this reason, the Apostles, after suffering humiliation, rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for [Jesus’] name” (Acts 5:41).” (§118).
    • “the daily humiliations of those who keep silent to save their families, who prefer to praise others rather than boast about themselves, or who choose the less welcome tasks, at times even choosing to bear an injustice so as to offer it to the Lord. “If when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval” (1 Pet 2:20). This does not mean walking around with eyes lowered, not saying a word and fleeing the company of others. At times, precisely because someone is free of selfishness, he or she can dare to disagree gently, to demand justice or to defend the weak before the powerful, even if it may harm his or her reputation.” (§119)
    • “I am not saying that such humiliation is pleasant, for that would be masochism, but that it is a way of imitating Jesus and growing in union with him. This is incomprehensible on a purely natural level, and the world mocks any such notion. Instead, it is a grace to be sought in prayer: “Lord, when humiliations come, help me to know that I am following in your footsteps”. (§120)
  • Holy Joy | “the saints are joyful and full of good humour. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit. The Christian life is “joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17), for “the necessary result of the love of charity is joy; since every lover rejoices at being united to the beloved… the effect of charity is joy”.[99]” (§122)
  • Sorrow and Joy | “Hard times may come, when the cross casts its shadow, yet nothing can destroy the supernatural joy that “adapts and changes, but always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved”.[100] That joy brings deep security, serene hope and a spiritual fulfilment that the world cannot understand or appreciate.” (§125)
  • Sense of Humor | “Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humour” (§126).
  • Treat Yourself Well | “With the love of a father, God tells us: “My son, treat yourself well… Do not deprive yourself of a happy day” (Sir 14:11.14). He wants us to be positive, grateful and uncomplicated” (§127)
  • Consumerism | “This is not the joy held out by today’s individualistic and consumerist culture. Consumerism only bloats the heart. It can offer occasional and passing pleasures, but not joy.” (§128)
    • when we “focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence”.[102] (§128)

 

To Be Continued…