This week Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete Et Exsultate,” a reflection on Vatican II Council’s Universal Call to Holiness. This is the third exhortation that the Pope has released in his papacy and is by far the most approachable and practical in its theme and simplicity. I must confess that each time a pope releases a new document of this type I get very excited. My excitement is comparable to when I am about to take a trip, vacation or new journey. I would like to share this exciting journey with you with the hope that together we can meditate with Pope Francis on Jesus’s invitation to all of us to become saints, to

“Rejoice and be glad.”

At this moment you may be saying to yourself, “I will never be able to achieve sainthood! I am not perfect like the saints who have been beatified and canonized because of their heroic virtue! No way, I wont even begin to try!” Pope Francis responds to this in the first chapter of the exhortation by saying that God calls each of us together to holiness. God is pleased when we, the people of God, together, not individually, acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness.” Pope Francis says that, “We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual.” God brings us in to himself taking into consideration our day to day lives, our personal relationships, our sorrows, and our joys. God’s holiness therefore, can be found in our interactions with others, as in the patience of parents, grandparents or families who show immense love and caring to their children and loved ones, to the sick or elderly, that never lose their smile. Witnesses to holiness are found in our next door neighbors, or kind helpers, in their willingness to reflect God’s presence. Their lives may not be perfect but they persevere and keep moving toward the goal to please God by their actions. Small gestures of holiness can start with a refusal to engage in gossip, and not speak badly about another, to patiently sit down and listen to our children or spouses after a long day of work, to pick up the rosary when anxiety seeps into our day and pray, recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, or to say a kind word to a poor person or grumpy coworker. These small gestures toward holiness make our ordinary lives extraordinary! Pope Francis closes the first chapter with these words; “Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of Leon Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”