By Jamie O’Brien and Josh Low
Our path to holiness is a constant battle, Pope Francis has this week announced, and those who do not realise this will be prey to failure or mediocrity.
The Holy Father’s latest Apostolic Exhortation ‘Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad): On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World’ was released at the Vatican on Monday 9 April.
Normally considered the second highest form of papal teaching after a Papal Encyclical, this is the third Apostolic Exhortation issued by Pope Francis, after Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013 and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in 2016.
Pope Francis begins by referencing Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew (5:12) to those persecuted or humiliated for His sake.
“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created,” he writes.
“He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.
“Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.
“For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before Him in love’.”
The Holy Father explains that his goal from the exhortation is to ‘repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.’
He adds that his hope is for the document to be helpful in enabling the whole Church to ‘devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.’
Broken down into five chapters, the document addresses the call to holiness, and speaks about the subtle enemies of holiness, along with an emphasis on the Beatitudes as a means of answering the call to holiness.
He looks at what the signs of holiness are in our world today, as well as spiritual combat, vigilance and discernment in the face of what he (Pope Francis) describes as ‘a constant struggle’ against the devil.
“We are not dealing merely with a battle against the world and a worldly mentality that would deceive us and leave us dull and mediocre, lacking in enthusiasm and joy,” Pope Francis explains.
“For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach.”
The Holy Father concludes by paying tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who he describes as ‘the saint among the saints, blessed above all others’ who lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other.
“She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword.
“She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us,” he writes.
“Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us… All we need to do is whisper, time and time again: ‘Hail Mary…’”
“Let us ask the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory, and let us encourage one another in this effort. In this way, we will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us.”
View the Apostolic Exhortation in full here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html