The Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) of Pope Francis, issued in March but released earlier this week, takes as its central theme the universal call to holiness. Like the other documents of his pontificate, Gaudete et Exsultate is written in accessible language and contains practical advice for all believers, regardless of their state in life. While he draws from the concrete examples of a very diverse group of saints throughout history, Pope Francis makes it clear that holiness assumes different forms in different circumstances. Each of us is called to be saint in the manner God has particularly willed for each of us.
Addressing in depth two dangerous tendencies which distort the Gospel — tendencies which he terms “Gnosticism” and “Pelangianism” — the Holy Father warns that holiness cannot be authentically sought if we fall into the error of presuming that the deposit of the faith has been completely exhausted by a single interpretive model, or of believing that salvation can be manufactured by ourselves. These two themes have already been discussed in the recent letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Placuit Deo, and they seem to be emerging as a kind of hermeneutic for interpreting Pope Francis’ response to his critics.
Some have already claimed that Gaudete et Exsultate constitutes something of a response to the now-infamous dubia issued by a group of cardinals nearly two years ago. Perhaps that is the case. But it is more likely that the average believer, already striving to respond in grace to the call to holiness, will welcome the document as the warm and practical advice of an earnest pastor.