Stories of 2018: Gaudete et Exsultate – on the call to holiness in today’s world
The third apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis’ pontificate was published on April 9, 2018. SHANE DWYER takes a closer look.
WHAT defines a Catholic or, more importantly, what lies at the heart of our faith? In his latest offering Pope Francis presents his own response to that question. By his own admission, Gaudete et Exsultate does not represent teaching on every aspect of Catholic faith and practice. It is deliberately limited in its scope, while profound in its significance.
The Pope begins with a challenge that is also a joy: “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”(no.1) This sets the scene for his underlying conviction: that you have been invited into God’s life and happiness, no matter who you are, how inadequate you may feel, or how far from God you might currently experience yourself as being.
You are called to be ‘holy’. ‘Holiness’ is a tricky word, even for people of faith. We don’t tend to associate it with ourselves or even with the people we love. For many of us, holy people are canonised saints, people before our time, who didn’t live the sort of lives we live. Helping us to expand our understanding of holiness is central to this document.
For example, we read of the witness of those who have loved us and note that while “their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.” (no. 3) By identifying holiness in ordinary people, Pope Francis makes it accessible to you too.
Never undervalue the significance of who you are and what you do. So often we can feel powerless to effect change in our world, our Church, or even in our own lives or the lives of the people we love. Instead, we need to trust the fact that the small things we do matter, and believe the little acts of kindness and love make a difference. (no. 8)
The Church exists for one reason only: to assist you to grow more and more deeply in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Church teaching, leadership and practice exists solely to assist you with this. In Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis reminds us where our focus should be. This wonderful document deserves to be read by you. If you would like to access some regular reflections on this document you might like to connect with the ‘Evangelise Australia’ Facebook page.
Gaudete et Exsultate is available from early May at The Catholic Bookshop in St Christopher’s Pastoral Centre at 55 Franklin St Manuka. Call (02) 6239 9888. Alternatively the document can be downloaded at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html
- Shane Dwyer is the Director of the National Centre for Evangelisation and the Catholic Enquiry Centre, an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference