This Easter season has been a time of blessing.
We continue to thank God for the gift of our new auxiliary bishop, who was appointed by the Holy Father on Tuesday of Easter Week.
I have had the privilege to serve with Bishop-elect Marc Trudeau for these past eight years. He is a very fine priest, a man of prayer and a man of service.
As a priest, he has always had a heart for his people. He is close to them in their joys and sorrows and in the challenges they face in their everyday lives. I know he is going to be, as Pope Francis likes to say, “a shepherd who knows the smell of his sheep.”
This week also, we are blessed with a new apostolic exhortation from our Holy Father, “Gaudete et Exsultate”(“Rejoice and Be Glad”), which is a beautiful and practical reflection on the meaning of our Christian lives.
The themes of the pope’s exhortation are close to my heart.
All of us, every baptized Catholic, need to understand how important we are, what our lives mean in the eyes of God, in the light of his beautiful plan for creation.
The meaning of our lives is to be saints, to be holy, “each in his or her own way,” the Holy Father says, quoting the Second Vatican Council.
The pope speaks personally to each one of us. “You … need to see the entirety of your life as a mission,” he says. That mission is to follow Jesus on the path to holiness — to live as children of God and to try to become like Jesus; to be holy as he is holy.
“Do not be afraid of holiness,” the pope says. “You will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.”
“We are all called to be witnesses,” Pope Francis writes, “but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.”
This is one of my favorite passages from this new exhortation: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.
One of the saints said that wisdom consists in doing the next thing. This is true also about holiness. And the pope takes this same approach: “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.”
Throughout this exhortation, he holds up the witness of ordinary people doing ordinary things. He even speaks of “the middle class of holiness.”
He finds holiness in parents raising their children with love, men and women working hard to support their families, in the smile of a person who is sick and burdened.
He celebrates “unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of her witness.”
And he reminds us that since the early Church, the family has been the cradle of holiness and that mothers and grandmothers have always been the first teachers of holiness. He adds: “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”
Pope Francis also wants us to know that holiness is personal, but it does not isolate us from others.
To follow Jesus means we need to seek with him the kingdom that he came to bring. “Your personal mission is inseparable from the building of that kingdom … of love, justice and universal peace,” the Holy Father writes.
In strong language, the pope reminds us that true holiness is expressed in “living generously” and with great concern for our brothers and sisters.
There is much more to say about “Rejoice and Be Glad.” I pray that you will take time in these 50 days of Easter to reflect on it.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you, and let us continue to thank God for our new bishop-elect, who we will ordain at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on June 7.
Let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother to walk with us and teach us the ways of holiness.