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Summer is a good time to catch up on some reading that there doesn’t seem to be time for earlier in the year.  I’ve finally finished Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), which he released earlier this year.  It’s a really practical document that’s addressed to all of us.  You can find the complete text on the Vatican’s web site at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html.

 

The Pope’s letter is all about holiness.  He writes, “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious.  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.  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.”  He wants to remind us that holiness is not just for formally recognized saints; all of us are called to be “the saints ‘next door’” (as he says in the letter).  Vatican II referred to this as the “universal call to holiness”.  He wants us to know that, not only should we expect ourselves to be holy, but it’s actually possible for us to be holy, no matter how messy our lives and our world are.

 

He talks a lot about the holiness that happens in everyday life.  He says, “I like to contemplate the holiness present 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… Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.”

 

I think this is such an important message because it shows that holiness is possible in everyday life.  If we really believe that, then it will change how we live our everyday lives.  He continues, “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 laboring 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.  Are you in a position of authority?  Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”

 

If the pace of your life has slowed down even by just a bit during the summer, I encourage you to reflect on the Pope’s call to personal holiness and how your “holiest life” could look.  And if you’re like me and use the summer to do a little extra reading (and/or do a few extra things to recharge your faith), this letter might be a good place to start!