Keys to understand the new papal document about the call to holiness

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An “apostolic exhortation,” is a type of magisterial document that, apart from encyclicals, is especially directed at Catholics. 

The title, “Rejoice and be glad,” or in latin “Gaudete et Exultate,” speaks of the call to holiness in the world today. 

It is Pope Francis' fifth important work.


The great novelty is the theme: to remember that Catholics can and should aspire to become saints. 

Pope Francis explains that he wants “to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

With this document, Pope Francis combines the tradition of new institutions that emerged in the 20th century and were recognized by the Second Vatican Council. It goes one step further by explaining how to live out the Christian proposal in the current world. 

It says “to be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, where we find ourselves.”

It recalls that everyone has their own “path to holiness” which brings out the best in them. Thus, do not waste time imitating something that is meant for others. 


Pope Francis proposed looking at the “saints next door.”

For example, “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.”

Also in the woman who doesn't speak poorly against her friends; who listens with patience and care to her children; who prays before problems; and affectionately cares for the poor.


The pope says that the path to holiness is through the Beatitudes. He also explains how each person will be judged, according to St. Matthew, “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.”

Persecution is also remembered not as something of the past, but occurs as “gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous.”

The work warns of the danger of separating the demands of the Gospel from their personal relationship with God and “Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO.” This is like those who “find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist... like the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend.” 


The pope ends the document proposing five great expressions of love for god and neighbor:

Perseverance, patience and meekness.

For example, he laments that Christians use verbal violence on the internet, or that media is an outlet for defaming and slandering others.

Joy and a sense of humor.

Boldness and passion.

(To encounter others) in community.

In constant prayer.


The last chapter explicitly states that the devil exists and he is more than a myth. 

“Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. 'Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour.'”

He concludes by remembering that holiness “has to do with the meaning of my life before the Father, who knows and loves me, with the real purpose of my life, that nobody knows better than He.”

 Read the full text of 'Gaudete et Exsultate' here.  

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