MAY 1, 2018 BY FR MATTHEW P. SCHNEIDER, LC
Pope Francis has produced an excellent document on the Christian call to holiness called Gaudete et Exsultate. Here are the most important passages with minimal commentary for those who don’t have time to read it all or those who want a refresher. These quotes got too long so I split in into 2 articles to be published one day after the next. Here’s part 2, including chapters 4 & 5. Part 1 in case you missed it earlier.
Again, Pope Francis’ Goal: “My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.” 2
Chapter 4: Signs of Holiness in Today’s World
This chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate gives some pointers to know how to live out holiness today.
Prayer is always our anchor: “We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root. ‘Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger’ (Eph 4:26). When we feel overwhelmed, we can always cling to the anchor of prayer, which puts us back in God’s hands and the source of our peace.” 114
The dangers of discourse on the internet in ways we would never speak IRL. “Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned. The result is a dangerous dichotomy, since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others. It is striking that at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others. Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze (cf. Jas 3:6).” 115
We need to seek to see the good in others. “It is not good when we look down on others like heartless judges, lording it over them and always trying to teach them lessons. That is itself a subtle form of violence.” 117
A tough line as we often want humility but really fear humiliations. “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.” 118
We need joyful images of saints. “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit.” 122
God is with us even in hard times: “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.’” 125, Evangelii Gaudium 6
Parrhesia is a word from Greek indicating the boldness of the first Christians. “Holiness is also parrhesía: it is boldness, an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world… Boldness, enthusiasm, the freedom to speak out, apostolic fervour, all these are included in the word parrhesía.” 129
The testimony of missionaries in every country. “We are inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort.” 138
We can’t live a full Christian life alone: “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.” 141
Love is shown in details: “Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details.
- The little detail that wine was running out at a party.
- The little detail that one sheep was missing.
- The little detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins.
- The little detail of having spare oil for the lamps, should the bridegroom delay.
- The little detail of asking the disciples how many loaves of bread they had.
- The little detail of having a fire burning and a fish cooking as he waited for the disciples at daybreak.” 144
Christian community should love in the details: “A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan.” 145
Silence and time with Jesus is needed for good discernment: “In that silence, we can discern, in the light of the Spirit, the paths of holiness to which the Lord is calling us. Otherwise, any decisions we make may only be window-dressing that, rather than exalting the Gospel in our lives, will mask or submerge it. For each disciple, it is essential to spend time with the Master, to listen to his words, and to learn from him always. Unless we listen, all our words will be nothing but useless chatter.” 150
We all ask God to take care of things in our prayers… and this expresses humility: “Prayer of supplication is an expression of a heart that trusts in God and realizes that of itself it can do nothing.” 154
We can’t acknowledge God yet ignore him. “If we realize that God exists, we cannot help but worship him, at times in quiet wonder, and praise him in festive song. We thus share in the experience of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who said: ‘As soon as I believed that there was a God, I understood that I could do nothing other than to live for him.’” 155
Chapter 5: Spiritual Combat, Vigilance and Discernment
This chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate reveiws the three key aspects of our path to holiness mentioned in the title.
Christian life is a battle: “The Christian life is a constant battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel. This battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives.” 158
We are in the world but not of the world: “We are not dealing merely with a battle against the world and a worldly mentality… It is also a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil. Jesus himself celebrates our victories.” 159
In case you thought Pope Francis didn’t believe in the devil, “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
“God’s word invites us clearly to ‘stand against the wiles of the devil’ (Eph 6:11) and to ‘quench all the flaming darts of the evil one’ (Eph 6:16).” 162
Good is stronger than evil: “Along this journey, the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil.” 163
The need for discernment: “How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or if it stems from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil? The only way is through discernment, which calls for something more than intelligence or common sense.” 166
Discernment is a form of spiritual combat: “Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable.” 169
The link of the spiritual and human sciences: “Certainly, spiritual discernment does not exclude existential, psychological, sociological or moral insights drawn from the human sciences. At the same time, it transcends them.” 170
“An essential condition for progress in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and his timetable, which are never our own. God does not pour down fire upon those who are unfaithful (cf. Lk 9:54), or allow the zealous to uproot the tares growing among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:29).” 174