“My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities”. So says Pope Francis in the first lines of Gaudete et Exsultate, (‘Rejoice and Be Glad’), his latest apostolic letter published on Monday 9 April, 2018. It’s a radical call to holiness in today’s world and has already been called ‘a spiritual masterpiece’. Benedictine monk Laurence Freeman, Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation has described the document, where the Pope addresses the reader directly as ‘you’, as a “passionate and prophetic understanding of holiness.”
Irish Jesuit theologian Gerry O’Hanlon says the letter is daring, accessible, and refreshing. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications he outlines the main themes of Pope Francis’ thinking on holiness including the scope of his vision, and the radical call for people to become saints by practising the simple mysticism of small everyday things done well. He says that that he admires the Pope’s insistence that despite the suffering of life, the practise of being holy is a joy-filled experience, and in this overtly secular age the Pope makes no concessions regarding the Christian call to holiness for all people.
Fr O’Hanlon notes that for Pope Francis, the essence of holiness lies in the finding of Christ within ourselves in our unique personhood. There we encounter the Christ of the gospels who preached and lived the beatitudes as a way of life, showing mercy, bringing peace, hungering for justice.