Pope at Audience: The universal call to holiness
(Vatican Radio) “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift, said Pope Francis Wednesday, speaking of the universal call to holiness of all baptized at his general audience.
In his catechesis at the General Audience, the Pope we must remember that holiness is a gift from God – it is not something we can achieve on our own.
Holiness, he continued “is not the prerogative of only a few: holiness is a gift that is offered to all, without exception, so that it constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian.”
“We are all called to be saints,” he said. But holiness is not “granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer.” Rather, everyone is called to holiness in their own state of life. “Indeed,” he said, “it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints… Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness.”
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.
A great gift of the Second Vatican Council was to have retrieved a vision of the Church founded on communion, and to have also embodied the principle of authority and hierarchy in this context. This has helped us to better understand that all Christians, as baptized, are equal in dignity before God and are united by vocation, which is to holiness (cf. Const. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). Now we ask: what does this universal call to holiness consist of? And how can we achieve it?
1. First, we must bear in mind that holiness is not something that we can procure for ourselves or obtain with our quality and our skills. Holiness is gifted to us by the Lord Jesus, when He takes us up with Him and clothes us in Himself, making us like Him. In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says that “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy”(Eph 5.25 to 26). There, holiness truly is the most beautiful face of the Church, the most beautiful face: it is rediscovering ourselves in communion with God, in the fullness of His life and His love. It is understandable, then, that holiness is not the prerogative of only a few: holiness is a gift that is offered to all, without exception, so that it constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian.
2. All of this helps us to realize that the call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious … No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face… No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves. Are you consecrated? Be holy living your gift and your ministry with joy. Are you married? Be holy loving and taking care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you a baptized person who is not married? Be holy performing your work with honesty and competence and giving time to the service of others. “But, father, I work in a factory … I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there…” – “Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint. God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you.” Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by passionately teaching your children or grandchildren to know and follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience. Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be holy by becoming a visible sign of God’s love and His presence beside us. This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always! At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, is that we are in communion with Him and serve others. If lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others.
3. At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God’s call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad… Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things. An example. A lady goes to the market to shop and meets another neighbor and starts talking and then comes the gossip and this lady says, “No, no, no I will not gossip about anyone.” That’s one step towards holiness, this helps you to become more holy. Then, at home, your son asks you to talk to him about his fantasies: “Oh, I’m so tired, I worked so hard today…” – “But sit down and listen to your son, he needs this.” And you sit, you listen with patience… This is a step towards holiness. Then at end the day, we are all tired, but prayer… We must pray! That’s one way to holiness. Then Sunday comes and you go to Mass and to take Communion, at times, a good confession that cleans us up a little. This is a step towards holiness. Then, Our Lady, so good, so beautiful, I take up the Rosary and pray. This is a step towards holiness. And so many steps towards holiness, little ones… Then I go down the street, I see a poor person, someone in need, I ask him, give him something, another step towards holiness. Small things are small steps toward holiness. And every step towards holiness will make us better people, free from selfishness and being closed in on ourselves, and open us up to our brothers and sisters and their needs.
Dear friends, in the First Letter of Saint Peter we hear this exhortation: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, (4.10 to 11). Here is the call to holiness! Accept it with joy, and let us support one another, because we do not travel the path to holiness by ourselves, no, each on their own, but together, that one body which is the Church, loved and made holy by the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us go forward with courage, on this path towards holiness. Thank you.
After the catechesis Pope Francis made the following appeal:
Friday, November 21, on the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, we celebrate the Pro Orantibus, dedicated to cloistered religious communities. It is a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work, recognizing the primacy that only He deserves. We thank the Lord for the testimony of cloistered life. May they never lack our spiritual and material support to carry out this important mission.
And in his greetings to Italian-speaking pilgrims, the Pope appealed for prayers for the victims of flooding in northern Italy:
We remember, too, the victims of the recent flooding in Liguria and in the north of Italy: Let us pray for them, and for the families, and let us be in solidarity with those who have suffered damage.