Pope Francis, the spiritual guide

Religion News Service | 4/5/2018 | Thomas Reese
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(RNS) — Before he was pope, before he was archbishop of Buenos Aries, Francis spent much of his Jesuit life as a spiritual guide to young Jesuits. He was not a great theologian, although he was well read in theology. Nor was he the president of one of our universities. Rather his job was to introduce young men to the Jesuits and help form them in their spiritual lives. He was the director of novices and rector of the community where young Jesuits studied philosophy and theology.

This background and experience helped make Francis the person he is today. It also explains why he naturally felt impelled to write “Gaudete et Exultate,” his recently released apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness. For Francis, all Christians, not just religious and priest, are called to holiness. But as an experienced spiritual guide, he knows that most people are confused about what holiness really is and therefore can easily get lost on their spiritual quest.

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Francis’ goal was not to write an abstract theological treatise on holiness but to present a practical way to holiness for our time. He does this with a simple style that is full of spiritual wisdom that can enrich any reader, whether a beginner or experienced practitioner of the spiritual life.

Francis begins by reminding us that “no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community.” Rather than presenting the hermit as the ideal Christian, he invites us to look at the ordinary holiness of our next-door neighbors, especially in the patience and persistence of their lives.

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Nor does he believe that everyone’s road to holiness is the same. Each person must discern their own path to holiness and rather than...
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