04/09/2018, 08.50
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Gaudete et exsultate, a familiar and intimate dialogue for holiness and mission

by Bernardo Cervellera

The new apostolic exhortation "on the call to holiness in today’s world" is of a spiritual and confidential nature. It overcomes the barriers between heroism and daily life, consecrated and lay people, Catholics and other Christians. The beatitudes,  going against the flow, a way to witness to faith in the modern world. Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism present in the Church. Traditionalists and "bergogliani" progressives. The devil is not a myth, but someone who poisons us "with hatred, with sadness, with envy, with vices".

Rome (AsiaNews) - The new apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis presented today, "Gaudete et exsultate (GE)" is, as the subtitle explains,  a "call to holiness in today’s world". It is to be meditated upon as in the past it was done with the books "of perfection", the "Imitation of Christ", or the "Filotea" of St. Francis de Sales. Like these, GE has a slow and analytical, spiritual and confidential rhythm: very often the Pope writes addressing the reader ad you, as in a familiar and intimate dialogue.

At the same time, his very personal meditation leads beyond all boundaries: holiness is not only in the great models, but is for everyone in the simplicity of everyday life; not only for priests and nuns, but also for lay people and (especially) women; not only for the perfect, but also for sinners; not only for Catholics, but also for Orthodox and Protestants, and in some respects - as in the case of "seeking justice with hunger and thirst" (No. 79) - there is also the holiness of "anonymous Christians".

With this, the proposal is not for a watered down, secular, secularized sanctity that is good for everyone. On the contrary, those who do not want to live in mediocrity must be inflamed by the presence of God, receive the mission from Him and walk in the path that He traces in our lives (nn19-24).

And after having countered certain ideas such as the opposition between action and contemplation, silence and activity, Francis proposes the "every day" sanctity of the Beatitudes: poverty, meekness, crying, being peaceful, ... until persecution, which is martyrdom of blood, but also enduring ridicule (No. 91).

The proposal of the Beatitudes is genius: on the one hand it takes up the traditional teaching of the Church which was taught to catechumens in the past; on the other, they contrast most with contemporary mentality. Living the Beatitudes in the modern world means going against the desire to possess, to appear, to be indifferent towards others,  for violence, or to oppress others.


One point on which the pontiff dwells is on the temptations of Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism. This reflection echoes somewhat the document "Placuit Deo" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But the Pope, rather than applying it to the contemporary mentality of the world, applies it within the Church (n.39), underlining that even among Catholics there is "Gnosticism", that is, an ideology that is content with analysis and words, without considering the "flesh" of the world and of the Church, which sees salvation in the rational and all-encompassing understanding of faith, to the point of making it "a monolithic body of doctrine... with no room for nuance" (No. 43). In this way, this temptation suffocates the mystery of God, which is always greater than our explanations, and is present in the world and in the Church beyond our measures.

The neo-Pelagianism, on the other hand, is the underlining of the human will as capable of achieving salvation (nn.47-segg). This "heresy" becomes without mercy for sinners, above all because it forgets that it is God's mercy to give holiness. In this "self-centred and elitist complacency" (No. 57), we forget the mission of "communicating the beauty and the joy of the Gospel and seeking out the lost among the immense crowds that thirst for Christ".

In these two heresies it is easy to see the temptations of the two opposing extremisms that are suffocating the Church: that of the traditionalists, of the ritualists, of the clear and distinct doctrine, and that of the "progressives" (who often pretend to be "bergogliani", manipulating the Pope’s words) who now become new inquisitors.

The pontiff often emphasizes that speeches, formulas, programs are always an attempt to draw near to the experience of faith. But the heart of faith is always (and only) charity towards God and neighbor (Nos 60-61).

His emphasis on the devil is also striking, seen not as "a myth", but as a presence that leads to the destruction of people and communities not though spectacular “possessions”, but by poisoning us (slowly) "with hatred, with sadness, with envy, with vices "(No. 161).

Faced with the sad witness of Christians without joy, lukewarm, slothful, worn-out, distracted, individualistic, the Pope hopes that " these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory, and let us encourage one another in this effort. (No. 177).

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