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April 9, 2018

Pope Francis Reminds Catholics of the Call to Holiness

By Thomas Farrell

Pope Francis has issued an apostolic exhortation reminding practicing Catholics that they are called to holiness. Because I am not a practicing Catholic, I would be delighted to see practicing Catholics respond positively to the call to holiness. But I suspect that certain American Catholics will criticize the pope's reminder of the call to holiness. As to non-Catholic Americans, we'll have to wait and see how they respond.


Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 9, 2018: Pope Francis has issued the kind of papal document known as an apostolic exhortation. An exhortation is an exhortation. He's the pope, and he is addressing his fellow practicing Catholics. Even though I am not a practicing Catholic myself, I read it to see what he is exhorting his fellow practicing Catholics to do. I learned that he is exhorting them to be holy.

The pope's exhortation is titled Gaudette et Exsultate (Latin for "Rejoice and be glad"; Mt. 5:12). It is divided into five parts or chapters. The paragraphs are numbered. Biblical quotations are followed by parenthetical biblical references in the text. In addition to biblical quotations, the pope quotes other sources. Those quotations are followed by footnote-numbers in square brackets. The 125 footnotes with those bracketed numbers appear at the end of the text. The complete English translation is available at the following URL:

In paragraph 2, Pope Francis says, "My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities."

In paragraph 6, Pope Francis says that in salvation history "no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of our interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people."

In paragraph 10, the pope says, "Yet with this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: 'Be holy, for I am holy' (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16)."

In paragraph 11, the pope claims that there is "the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7). . . . We are called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness."

In paragraph 14, the pope says, "Be holy by living out your commitment with joy."

In paragraph 19, Pope Francis says, "A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for 'this is the will of god, your sanctification' (1 Thess 4:3)."

In paragraph 20, Pope Francis says, "At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life."

In paragraph 22, the pope says of a saint's life, "What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person."

In paragraph 23, Pope Francis says, "This is a powerful summons to all of us. You need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today's world."

In paragraph 25, the pope says, "Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace."

In paragraph 26, the pope says, "We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission."

In paragraph 32, Pope Francis says, "Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy."

In paragraph 33, the pope says, "To the extent that each Christian grows in holiness, he or she will bear greater fruit for our world."

In paragraph 34, Pope Francis says, "Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of god's grace. For in the words of Leon Bloy, when all is said and done, 'the only tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.'"

In paragraphs 35 to 62, the pope discusses two subtle enemies of holiness.

In paragraphs 63 to 109, Pope Francis discusses the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23).

In paragraphs 110 to 157, the pope discusses signs of holiness in today's world.

In paragraphs 158 to 177, Pope Francis discusses spiritual combat, vigilance and discernment.

In conclusion, what do you think that American Catholic commentators will say about Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation? More importantly, what will American Catholics say? Will they respond positively to the pope's call to holiness?

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book WALTER ONG'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO CULTURAL STUDIES: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE WORD AND I-THOU COMMUNICATION (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2000; 2nd ed. 2009, forthcoming). The first edition won the 2001 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology conferred by the Media Ecology Association. For further information about his education and his publications, see his UMD homepage: Click here to visit Dr. Farrell's homepage.

On September 10 and 22, 2009, he discussed Walter Ong's work on the blog radio talk show "Ethics Talk" that is hosted by Hope May in philosophy at Central Michigan University. Each hour-long show has been archived and is available for people who missed the live broadcast to listen to. Here are the website addresses for the two archived shows:

Click here to listen the Technologizing of the Word Interview

Click here to listen the Ramus, Method & The Decay of Dialogue Interview