Five years after his election, Pope Francis has decided to publish his third apostolic exhortation, titled Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad). As the subtitle explicitly states, its theme is “the call to holiness in today’s world.” The pontiff launches a plain, essential message, indicating that what counts, what is the essence of Christian life — to use the terminology of St. Ignatius of Loyola — is to “seek and find God in all things,” following the instruction of his invitation to Jesuits: curet primo Deum. This is the heart of every reform, both personal and ecclesial: put God at the center.
On becoming pope, Cardinal Bergoglio chose the name Francis for this very reason: as pontiff he has embraced the mission of Francis of Assisi: to “rebuild” the Church in the sense of a spiritual reform that has God at its center. He states: “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”
This magisterial text does not seek to be a “treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification.” The “modest goal” of the pope “is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.” And in this sense he hopes that his “pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.” As we shall see, this papal desire has discernment as its beating heart.
Gaudete et Exsultate is composed of five chapters. The starting point is “the call to holiness” made to all. From here we go on to a clear identification of “two subtle enemies” that tend to turn holiness into elitist, intellectual or voluntary forms. Then it gives the Gospel Beatitudes as a positive model of holiness consisting in following the way “in the light of the Master” and not a vague religious ideology. Next it describes some characteristics of holiness in the current world: patience and meekness, humor, courage and fervor, community life and constant prayer. The exhortation concludes with a chapter dedicated to the spiritual life as “combat, vigilance and discernment.”
— Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ
Editor’s Note: To continue reading the full article by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor of chief of La Civilta Cattolica, click here.
To read the full apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, click here.