Gaudete et Exsultate, which translates as ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world, is a wonderfully rich resource for families. Here are 10 points in it that have struck me as especially important for families:
- In Rejoice and Be Glad, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate the holiness in those around us.
“I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile,” he writes. “In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”. (GE 7)
- The Pope says that to be holy does not mean that you have to be a bishop! He also encourages us to let the grace of our baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness.
“We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus.” (GE 14)
- Pope Francis tells us that if we allow ourselves to be led by God’s grace, we can shape the holiness God has willed for us by many small gestures. He offers some examples:
“A woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”.
This is a step forward in holiness.
Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.” (GE 16)”
- How often do we see people sitting together but in silence because they have sought to isolate themselves from those they love. Pope Francis reminds us in this new document that growth in holiness is a journey in community, side-by-side with others.
- In Gaudete et Exsultate Francis says the constant presence of gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard. He asks us to be mindful of this and to focus on each minute of our lives as a step on the path to growing in holiness.
- Pope Francis says we should not fear holiness or going against the flow with our Faith which can be seen as counter-cultural. He says, “Holiness 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, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.” (GE 32)
- The Pope takes us through the Beatitudes one-by-one and offers us practical ways to apply them to our daily lives. “The Beatitudes are in no way trite or undemanding, quite the opposite,” he writes. “Let us listen once more to Jesus… let us allow his words to unsettle us, to challenge us and to demand a real change in the way we live.” (GE 65, 66)
- How many of us received these words of advice from parents and grandparents as we were preparing for marriage? I know I certainly did! Pope Francis says: “If God is for us, who is against us? (Rom. 8:31) – this is the source of peace found in the saints.
Such inner strength makes it possible for us in our fast-paced, noisy and aggressive world, to give a witness of holiness through patience and constancy in doing good. We need to recognise and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations and not let them take root.” (GE 112, 114)
- This takeaway from the document might be my favourite: we have heard Pope Francis speaking before about joy, laughter and a sense of humour, and in Rejoice and Be Glad Pope Francis reminds us that God wants us to be positive, grateful and uncomplicated.
- Pope Francis tells us that a community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another, is a place where the risen Lord is present.
He says: “God impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond. So, if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find him there.”
Why not read passages of the document with your family and discuss what the Pope is inviting us to do – which put simply is – to rejoice and Be glad!