April 2018 Evangelization Exchange – Cummings

Gaudete et Exultate

By Evan Cummings, Paulist Seminarian

Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, once wrote that:

“Christian souls, by the interior action of the Holy Spirit, attain perfection – that is, become divine [people]! This is the ideal Christian [person], the saint!” (Church and the Age, p. 219).

Through the new Papal exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), Pope Francis delivers a powerful reminder to the whole Church of this same call to holiness, reminding us that “[God] wants us to be saints” (§ 1) and that this will lead us to true happiness.

What Pope Francis offers is the hope and reality that not only are we called to holiness, but that holiness is possible for everyone. Holiness can be achieved in everyone’s life, and Pope Francis gives some helpful guidelines while not demanding a “one-size-fits-all” understanding of holiness.
To be holy does not require a total abandonment of one’s self or of life, but in fact, is found in the ordinary, in the everyday. Pope Francis writes:
“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.” (§ 14).

Holiness is built up over time through small actions such as caring for our loved ones even when we are tired. Holiness is found in living out the Beatitudes in our world today. To be holy does not mean running away from the world, but rather, by letting God’s grace touch the world through us. We don’t have to become someone we are not, we are instead called to be our authentic selves in love.

Pope Francis also reminds us that this holy life is not a boring, painful existence, but a life of joy, “the saints are joyful and full of good humor” (§ 122). This joy is not a passing happiness or the pleasure that the consumerist world offers us, but a lasting and infectious joy that fills us to the core! “[This] joy brings deep security, serene hope and a spiritual fulfillment that the world cannot understand or appreciate” (§ 125).

Pope Francis’s new exhortation is not naive about the struggles of holiness. He recognizes that there are many obstacles to holiness such as indifference, a lust for power, and over-emphasized individualism. However, in overcoming these obstacles and becoming a holy people of God, Pope Francis reminds us that our lives will transform the world. In being a holy people, we evangelize, we share the joy and good news of a life in Christ with the world.

Evan Cummings is a seminarian with the Paulist Fathers finishing his fifth year of formation in Washington, DC. Evan originally hails from Clearfield, Utah, and originally encountered the Paulists through the internet and felt called to the mission of evangelizing America. He hopes to continue to use media and technology to reach others and help them grow in their faith and holiness.


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