Rejoice and Be Glad; On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.
Pope Francis has issued his apostolic exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad; On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.”
It includes much wisdom about living our faith in the modern world. Included is this topical piece of advice.
Ideologies striking at the heart of the Gospel
I regret that ideologies lead us at times to two harmful errors. On the one hand, there is the error of those Christians who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace. Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO stripped of the luminous mysticism so evident in the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and many others. For these great saints, mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel in no way detracted from their passionate and effective commitment to their neighbours; quite the opposite.
The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.
We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the “grave” bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him (cf. Mt 25:35)? Saint Benedict did so readily, and though it might have “complicated” the life of his monks, he ordered that all guests who knocked at the monastery door be welcomed “like Christ”, with a gesture of veneration; the poor and pilgrims were to be met with “the greatest care and solicitude”.
Also of interest to all of us, especially to those who comment using social media and internet sites, is the following;
Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned. The result is a dangerous dichotomy, since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others. It is striking that at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others. Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze (cf. Jas 3:6).
P.s. Despite all the recent condemnatory commentary on certain social media sites and blogs it seems Francis hasn’t quite abandoned the concept of hell!!
Download the full text of Pope Francis’ exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad”
Isn’t it great to have a pope who prefers to wear the ‘seamless robe’ like Cardinal Joseph Bernardin than the capacious cappa magnifica of Cardinal Raymond Burke? Just saying . . . . before I get down to Gaudete et Exsultate’s remaining 174 paragraphs later in the week.
Eddie, please read 115 again
Declan@2, thank you for keeping tabs on my ‘unguarded tongue’ and quenching it from the fires of hell. My comment@1 was written before the editor brought para 115 to my attention, and I’m still making my way through Francis on the Beatitudes, having checked myself out for my tendencies to Gnosticism and Pelagianism.
I was concentrating on paras 100-102 which I feel the editor cherry-picked for us for a good reason. Anyway, if Cardinal Burke can home in on a little footnote in one Apostolic Exhortation to launch his ‘dubia’, surely the rest of us can draw a legitimate comparison from three full paragraphs in another?
Yes indeed, Eddie. Nicely put.
One of the great things about Catholicism is that the more things change the more they remain the same. The remedies for one era suffice for all eras as illustrated very well in paragraphs 162 and 163.
162. God’s word invites us clearly to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11) and to “quench all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). These expressions are not melodramatic, precisely because our path towards holiness is a constant battle. Those who do not realize this will be prey to failure or mediocrity. For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach. If we become careless, the false promises of evil will easily seduce us. As the sainted Cura Brochero observed: “What good is it when Lucifer promises you freedom and showers you with all his benefits, if those benefits are false, deceptive and poisonous?”
163. Along this journey, the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil. Those who choose to remain neutral, who are satisfied with little, who renounce the ideal of giving themselves generously to the Lord, will never hold out. Even less if they fall into defeatism, for “if we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents… Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner, borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil”.
I’m sure this will get a lot of coverage in the coming weeks
This is brilliant news for survivors. Thank God the Pope has looked at the evidence for himself and come to his own conclusions. It’s unbelievable to think that he is hosting Juan Carlos Cruz at his Vatican hotel and is going to apologize to him personally for doubting his story. Credit is due to the Pope for being man enough to say he has made a mistake and credit to Juan Carlos Cruz who must have went through hell to get to this point.
Hopefully this will be start of the Church taking this issue seriously and dealing with the 1800 cases of sexual abuse on its files at present.
Yes Frances, a good day for all survivors of clerical abuse.
Our pope and leader is truly a man of his word. He has shown true humility by both his words and actions. God bless him and all survivors, we can only pray that he has a long life with good enough health to move the Church further into this new era. I think AB Diarmuid Martin must also be remembered for his good works too. A mini celebration Frances.:)
This news could not have come soon enough.Its a good day when Pope Francis publicly shows his remorse over his dismissing the victims testimony.
Shifting of blame, ducking of responsibilities and denial of deceiving the Pope by the Bishops in Chile. They have admitted to sending letters to the Vatican defending the abusing priest and speaking against survivors. Bishop Koljatic admits that he “wasn’t lucid enough to understand what was happening and if this is so, evidently I must assume that responsibility”. When you analyze that statement is says so much about the mentality of those Bishops. He wasn’t lucid enough to understand what was happening yet he was lucid enough to take pen to paper and condemn the survivors. He says that “evidently I must assume that responsibility”. The word ‘evidently’ reveals a lot. It has now become apparent (evident) to him, because of the incessant media spotlight and the censure of the Pope, that he must assume responsibility. I have no doubt that he never had any intention of taking responsibility for anything and feels sorry for himself now that he has been caught on a lie, and might have to pay for it. There is no mention of any remorse over how he handled the issue or any compassion towards survivors.
We will have to wait and see what unfolds for these Bishops.
Frances@10, this piece below, by Kevin McKenna in last Thursday’s Herald here in Scotland, is on a similar theme.
We need a public inquiry into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church
IN 1976 in North Ayrshire the destinies of two children briefly kissed one afternoon and then spun off into different universes. A little clutch of infants from a Dreghorn nursery had been taken out to marvel at the huge papier mache shark displayed in a shop window to mark the arrival of Jaws at the local cinema. One of them would become the most powerful person in Scotland; the other would encounter a childhood and youth of unimaginable physical and sexual abuse by priests of the Catholic Church.
Andi Lavery remembers his little classmate Nicola Sturgeon well. She would always politely say hello as they passed each other in the street. At some point, though, the young Andi stopped responding to these greetings and became sullen, for by then his abuse at the hands of Fr Paul Moore had begun. He was five years old. He wonders how his life might have been if, like Nicola Sturgeon, he had gone up to Dreghorn Primary School and not St Mark’s where this predatory priest lay in wait.
At the High Court in Glasgow last month 82-year-old Fr Moore was convicted of sexually abusing three children and a student priest in crimes that spanned more than two decades. He has now appealed his nine-year sentence thus prolonging the agony of his victims. Andi Lavery was the main witness in the trial and the youngest of those victims. The sexual abuse he suffered both as a child in Ayrshire and as a teenager at Fort Augustus Abbey outside of Inverness is of the most appallingly brutal kind, including violent rape. Fort Augustus, it seems, was long known among the highest church authorities as a sort of clerical rubbish tip, conveniently remote and hidden where problem priests could be smuggled in quietly and then forgotten.
Tragically and unforgivably no thought was spared for the young pupils who also passed through this wretched place. Moore is the second Fort Augustus priest to have been convicted; extradition processes for a further two are currently underway. According to Mr Lavery, many other boys were abused there. Moore himself was sent to this place after allegedly admitting child abuse to his bishop more than 20 years previously. The judge at Fr Moore’s trial, Lady Rae, described his crimes as an “appalling abuse” and that the damage done to the young people involved was immeasurable.
Alongside him, though, almost the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland stretching back several decades stands accused of complicity in these crimes and of covering them up when they came to light. The Church’s official propagandists would have us believe that only a tiny number of rogue priests have been guilty of child sex abuse; they are in denial. A narrative of evil and abuse has emerged encompassing all dioceses in Scotland, including decades of it at the former national seminary at Blair’s College in Aberdeen where the disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien was once rector for several years.
The way that the Catholic Church has treated Andi Lavery before, during and after the conviction of his principal abuser is indicative of an organisation that long ago lost sight of its central purpose on this earth. It is no longer fit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in this area it has become an instrument of Satan. A judgment is now being cast upon it and it is failing.
In their long fight for justice for the evil that they suffered Andi Lavery and some of his fellow survivors have been treated like scum by the Catholic Church. As of yesterday no one from the leadership of this so-called Christian Church has enquired after Mr Lavery’s mental and physical wellbeing. There have been bland and insincere apologies but no offer of financial redress. Yet the hierarchy have always found money to purchase homes and comfortable accommodation for those among its clergy who have committed acts of evil in its service. Mr Lavery has been left penniless.
He was a skilled and experienced nurse before his long fight for justice took over his life and triggered memories which have left him close to suicide. During this time he has watched helplessly as several other victims killed themselves, broken finally by the weight of their destroyed childhoods and by the callous indifference of a church that turned its back on them.
During the trial Fr Moore’s defence team tried unsuccessfully to have him declared mentally unstable in a bid to destroy his credibility. Following the trial a senior priest of the archdiocese of Glasgow declared in a radio interview that he had never met Mr Lavery. Yet the two had met just a few years ago in the company of several politicians as Mr Lavery began to build cross-party support for survivors of child sex abuse. The tone of the correspondence by the Church’s National Safeguarding Officer to Mr Lavery has often been devoid of anything approaching compassion for the mental and physical torture he and others suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile the McLellan Report into historic sex abuse in the Catholic Church inexplicably allowed the hierarchy to escape any scrutiny of its cover-ups; pay-offs and complicity in decades of abuse. It focused merely on future safeguarding arrangements but directed the Church to ensure “support for survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland in the field of safeguarding”. Two years later Dr McLellan expressed his dismay that the hierarchy had failed to do this.
Faced with such persistent wrongdoing, dishonesty and callousness you are left desperately trying to differentiate between the faith and the sorry collection of hypocrites who administer it. Their propaganda wing regularly tries to raise the spectre of anti-Catholicism in Scottish society but this is a smokescreen for the much greater evil suffered by Andi Lavery and hundreds of other innocents whose lives it destroyed.
Only a full public inquiry led by a judge will have a chance of uncovering the true extent and nature of child sex abuse in the Scottish Catholic Church rather than its spin doctors’ highly selective version of it. Nicola Sturgeon must start that process now in the name of a little boy she once knew a long time ago. In the meantime she should request the presence of the Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Edward Adams, at Holyrood to ask how the Vatican intends to deal with a grossly dysfunctional Catholic leadership in Scotland, one that has betrayed its people.
On a more positive note, this, I think, is an excellent reflection on Gaudete et Exsultate in the Tablet of April 11th.
From the editor’s desk > The spiritual masterpiece of Pope Francis
11 April 2018
The spiritual masterpiece of Pope Francis
Gaudete et Exsultate, from the Pope who comforts the afflicted – and afflicts the comfortable.
Holiness has something of a bad name. It popularly means one of two things: either being so unworldly as to be hardly on the planet at all, or to have assumed an air of spiritual superiority that disdains lesser mortals more subject to the temptations of the flesh. In his audacious new apostolic exhortation Pope Francis has embarked upon a very personal definition of holiness that breaks through these blockages and turns these preconceptions upside down.
Most Catholics would shy away from imagining holiness either as applying to themselves or as a serious aim in life, and are probably not comfortable with being thought of as “religious”. Yet the call to holiness is universal, and the practice of it should be as natural and familiar as any good habit. The parent who cares lovingly for a child, the carpenter who deftly repairs a damaged wardrobe, the owner of a business who behaves honourably and conscientiously towards their staff and their customers, indeed anyone who aspires to become the person God means them to be, is engaged in becoming more holy by virtue of it. Holiness is not remote from everyday life. It is the very stuff daily life is made of. Anyone can be a saint.
Gaudete et Exsultate is a remarkable document, and could be regarded as this Pope’s spiritual masterpiece. A thousand sermons could be preached on it, and everyone in the congregation would instantly sense that the Pope is talking to them personally. But he does not shirk controversy. He identifies two skewed brands of Catholicism, which he calls Pelagianism and Gnosticism, which block the flow of grace and kill holiness dead even while claiming to be its defenders. These two ancient mindsets also happen to be apt descriptions of the ultra-conservative positions occupied by those who have been most hostile to his papacy. Francis is coruscating and relentless in his criticism of rigidity, legalism, clericalism, conservatism and traditionalism. They result, he says, in “a self-centred and elitist complacency, bereft of true love…”
These tendencies either turn Catholicism into little more than a set of doctrinal rules that only an elite properly understands and obeys; or they promote the idea that salvation is to be gained by an act of will, to be had if only people would work hard enough at it. These two strands often appear together. They are distractions from holiness, yet somehow they have become lodged in the popular imagination as accurate descriptions. On the contrary, Francis insists, holiness does not imply never making mistakes or never falling short; it is living in the humble awareness that we are always in need of the mercy of God.
Just as striking is Francis’ extension of the pro-life position beyond a narrow focus to every situation where human lives are threatened or diminished – “the poor, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection…” He insists that the Catholic attitude to migrants is not secondary to the Catholic attitude to the unborn, but part of a seamless whole. Working for social justice is a work of holiness.
This inspiring document should not be misunderstood as simply Francis’ response to his critics. Like all good spiritual writing, there are lines on every page that will make all readers uncomfortable. But Pope Francis clearly regards his job not only as comforting the afflicted, but also as afflicting the comfortable. At which he undoubtedly will succeed.
Paddy @ 11
That article pretty much sums up the attitude of the Catholic Church hierarchy to date when dealing with survivors of clerical abuse. Discredit them, silence them, even try and make them out to be mentally unwell. All in an effort to cover up their part in these heinous crimes.
Does any agency know how many people have taken their lives through suicide because of clerical abuse? I would imagine it is in the tens of thousands.
I wonder how many priests have been abused by their own and are still carrying that pain with them every day of their lives.
I am struggling these days as I find all of this deeply upsetting. It also brings back a lot of memories. Thankfully I have a support group that I can lean on and take comfort from. Without that group of fellow survivors, God only knows where I’d be.
This is not just a Scottish problem. It is a world wide problem.
‘Francis is…relentless in his criticism of rigidity, legalism, clericalism, conservatism and traditionalism. They result, he says, in “a self-centred and elitist complacency, bereft of true love…” ‘
Thank you, Paddy Ferry @12, for this very affirming article on Gaudete et Exsultate. Francis makes the ideal of holiness actually accessible and he has the ability to explain things in a language the ordinary woman and man in the pews can understand. I nodded my head vigorously when I read ‘ bereft of true love’ as that is how I feel when I read some of the statements from the rigid, legalistic clericalist minds. Where is the love, the compassion, the understanding and charity in minds like these? Pope Francis has a brilliant mind and he is not afraid to show emotion thereby encouraging us to let the heart have its rightful place in how we treat others.
Paddy, really appreciate you posting this from The Tablet. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.
The first step has been completed on a journey that will hopefully result in the Church taking a radically different approach to dealing with abuse. The survivors who met the Pope are full of praise for the way he listened to them and they felt the meetings were enormously constructive.