“Rejoice and be glad” (Mt 5:12)
One of the hardest things for a Jesuit to do (at least, this Jesuit) is to cull his books in anticipation of a move. That is one of the tasks I’ve been about these weeks as I get ready to move this summer to Boston College High School as the superior of the Jesuit community there. Usually, when I try to downsize my books I select something from the shelf, spend a few minutes deliberating its significance, put it aside as worth holding onto and then select another. I spend about an hour doing this and end up reshelving the majority (sometimes all) of the volumes I consider. If nothing else it gives me a chance to dust.
I faced an even more challenging task when trying to whittle down a series of quotes I had selected from Pope Francis’s recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, which I wanted to serve as an invitation to all of us to spend some time in thoughtful, even prayerful, reading and reflection. My aim was a top ten list. You can see below I didn’t quite achieve that.
In Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis advances the “modest goal... to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.” (para. 2) In five brief chapters Pope Francis restates that the call to holiness is universal, highlights two subtle obstacles to answering this call, finds in the Beatitudes a model for what a life of holiness looks like, describes characteristics of holiness for today, and emphasizes the need for a lived discernment rooted in prayer. It is a rich and beautiful document. After too many hours sifting through the four pages of quotes I had initially highlighted here’s what I held on to. If nothing else it gave me a chance to pray.
We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. (6)
Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. (32)
Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. (34)
God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. (41)
So often we say that God dwells in us, but it is better to say that we dwell in him, that he enables us to dwell in his light and love. (51)
[God] gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. For in every one of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenseless and those in need, God’s very image is found. Indeed, with the scraps of this frail humanity, the Lord will shape his final work of art. (61)
We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. (82)
Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems: that is holiness. (94)
Holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture. (96)
It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others. (104)
[T]he best way to discern if our prayer is authentic is to judge to what extent our life is being transformed in the light of mercy. (105)
Jesus’ words are few and straightforward, yet practical and valid for everyone, for Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice. (109)
Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations…Humiliation makes you resemble Jesus; it is an unavoidable aspect of the imitation of Christ. (118)
Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor. (126)
Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. (134)
God is eternal newness. He impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond. (135)
Sometimes I wonder…if perhaps Jesus is already inside us and knocking on the door for us to let him escape from our stale self-centeredness. (136)
The saints surprise us, they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity. (138)
Think of your own history when you pray, and there you will find much mercy. (153)
Intercessory prayer is an expression of our fraternal concern for others, since we are able to embrace their lives, their deepest troubles and their loftiest dreams. (154)
My hope is that there is something here that will draw you into the full text.
May all your days be “fourth days” encouraging one another in this effort to be saints for God’s greater glory. (177)