We, the Bishops of England and Wales, are immensely grateful for the reflection on holiness which the Holy Father has given in Gaudete et Exsultate. We commend it to all those who seek wholeness and peace in their lives.
Gaudete et Exsultate is a personal letter addressed to each of us bishops, and to all people, inviting us all to put God, and not ourselves, at the centre of our lives. In it the Pope calls us to join with that great company of witnesses (Hebrews 12) who have gone before us in the faith, “for the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before him in love.’ ”(GE 2).
In our society, holiness is often regarded as antiquated. In this simple, direct and beautiful letter, Pope Francis reminds us that holiness is not the preserve of specialists. It is for all of us, not a select few. Holiness is our destiny. It is what God has planned for us. There is nothing intimidating or overpowering about this. To depend on God makes us truly free. “The only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.” (Leon Bloy, ‘La femme pauvre’, quoted in GE 34).
Pope Francis reminds us of the Church’s spiritual wisdom that holiness is lived in the daily reality of our lives. It is in small gestures and little things that we are led to be holy. Jesus Christ not only invites us to this holiness but enables us, through his grace, to make the journey to God. This journey, although deeply personal, is never private. Our worship becomes pleasing to God when we devote ourselves to living generously. God’s gifts, granted in prayer, are seen in our concern for our brothers and sisters, particularly those most in need. We are to set out afresh to do all we can to love the least in our society and culture.
As we receive Gaudete et Exsultate, we commit ourselves and commend all people to be bold and courageous in the mission of the Church (GE 129) and recognise that spiritual combat and renewal are at the heart of this journey to God. We echo the Holy Father’s own prayer in seeking the intercession of Mary, our Mother, and we ask “the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory” (GE 177). We will continue to encourage one another, and all our people, in this effort.
Statement – Thanksgiving for Gaudete et Exsultate