The Vatican released a new Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis today, Gaudete et Exsultate, on the call to holiness in today’s world.
The exhortation is about 44 pages in length – shorter than Pope Francis’ previous documents – but is packed with practical advice for living the universal call to holiness.
Dr. Matthew Bunson, senior contributor for EWTN, stopped by Morning Air® today to discuss Gaudete et Exsultate and dive into some key passages.
On the exhortation as a whole, Bunson said, “I’m referring to it – in no way disparagingly – as Pope Francis’ greatest hits. What we’re seeing here is the distillation of 5 years of a lot of his spiritual wisdom. This means that it is very practical.”
And although Gaudete et Exsultate is written in the familiar style of Pope Francis, it draws from many sources in its call to live a holy life in the modern age.
“It’s oriented toward the universal call to holiness that we find in the Second Vatican Council, but that is grounded very soundly in the history of the Church,” explained Bunson. “But it’s also calling for practical application in the life of the Christian, which is why he focuses so much on the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. … It’s a very well-crafted exhortation from the standpoint of helping us see how to live a Christ-like life.”
1.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. (14)
In other words, wherever God has put you, that is where you are called to be holy. And all of us, then, need to be holy by caring for and loving others. But then he anchors it in the supreme model for how we are to live our lives – and that is, of course, Jesus Christ.
2. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you. (32)
I think a lot of people are terrified at the idea of trying to be holy. That they will be surrendering their lives, or they will become less of themselves. When, in fact, they’re becoming their truest self. And I think that’s why he uses the Beatitudes and Matthew’s Gospel.
He uses a lot of examples of the saints throughout. He quotes St. John of the Cross, he mentions St. Therese of Lisieux, he mentions Teresa of Avila. He goes through the history of the Church to say that you have these magnificent saints like St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, but even they understood that the fundamental orientation has to be toward Christ. And it means living your holiness, that you don’t shut it away from the world, as much as there might be a temptation to.
3. Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humour. (122)
He devoted an entire exhortation, Evangelii Gaudiem, to the very idea of joy. But a joy-filled Christian is someone who can really present to the world the beauty of the faith, and be heard and received. He has this line at the very beginning that ‘holiness is the most attractive face of the Church.’ And that attractiveness is made all the more attractive by our joy, our sense of humor. If you look to the history of the Church there is certainly a joy we find with the saints, and those who truly love God. How could you not be filled with joy, happiness, and a sense of humor knowing God loves you?
4. I regret that ideologies lead us at times to two harmful errors. On the one hand, there is the error of those Christians who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace. … 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.(100 & 101)
The Holy Father, as he has done in the past, is calling for that balance in how we live our holiness. He gives very strong statements regarding the defense of the unborn, and he gives a very strong statement about the need to care for those who are struggling in the world. This is nothing new for Pope Francis, so I wouldn’t read too much into it. We’re already seeing those who are arguing that he’s taking a particular position here.
What is very clear for Francis is that recognition of living holiness in every possible sense of the word. Francis has talked about this in the past, and he’s going to continue to talk about the suffering of the poor – that our care for them must be grounded in love, it must be grounded in mercy. The care of the 60 million or so refugees who are being forced from their homes as we speak, that too is part of our obligation. And we find it anchored in the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. That’s why he keeps going back to that.
5. We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. (161)
We had this kerfuffle or controversy of what Pope Francis may or may not have said to the 93-year-old atheist editor Eugenio Scalfari. Well, if you’re looking for a very clear, forthright, blunt statement from Francis regarding the reality of the devil, I would encourage you to read chapter 5 of this exhortation. It’s titled ‘Spiritual Combat, Vigilance, and Discernment.’
He gives a very clear discussion of the actions of the devil, and it makes for very interesting reading. Especially because he proposes the antidotes – discernment and prayer.
You can read Gaudete et Exsultate in its entirety at the Vatican web site.
Listen to the full conversation with Dr. Matthew Bunson below: