Holiness and Divine Mercy - Fourth Oceania Apostolic Congress on Mercy

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I recall the bold message of Pope St John Paul II to young people in the year 2000. The Pope said: “Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.” It was such a bold declaration. However, it was one that young people took to heart. The young people responded, “Yes, I can be a saint.” Pope John Paul II painted holiness, sanctity, as within the grasp of everyone. Holiness is not just reserved to a few extraordinary souls. It made the idea of being holy not just something distant and for a few but within the grasp of many. Young people embraced this call and desired to be holy.

The Pope said to the young people, “The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.” These words ran like electricity through the hearts of many young people. Suddenly they saw their mission. It was to be the saints that would change history and create a new humanity.

In 2002 in Canada again the Pope called on young people to see themselves as “saints of the third millennium”. His own confidence in them stirred them to believe that it is possible to be a saint. He told young people that holiness is not a question of age, but, as he expressed it, “It is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Benedict echoed this idea at the WYD in Cologne when he said that “saints are the true reformers”: “Only from saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.” Once again, the Pope presented holiness as a means not only for personal sanctity but as an instrument of transformation of human society. Saints shape history.

Pope Francis

On the feast of St Joseph, March 19, 2018, Pope Francis continued this theme, issuing an Apostolic Exhortation entitled, Exultate et Gaudete, Rejoice and be glad, on the theme of holiness. The Pope reminded us what the previous popes had been saying, that God wants us to be saints, to be holy. He does not want us to settle for a bland and mediocre existence as Christians.

In this letter the Pope presents the attractive phrase of the “saints next door”. He invites us to think of holiness being evident to us in people we know. Holiness is not an abstract thing. It is not the domain of extraordinary individuals. It is not somehow distant and unobtainable.

The Pope goes on to declare: “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy.” He adds, “On the contrary you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you.” (GE 32)

The Pope urges us to set our sights higher. He says, “Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit.” He then quotes the French spiritual writer, Leon Bloy: “The only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

A Battle

The Pope says what we all know to be true: “Our path towards holiness is a constant battle.” It is a battle worth engaging in. He adds that, “Those who do not realise this will be prey to failure or mediocrity.” His emphasis on mediocracy is worth further thought. We can set our spiritual sights low. We can consider that I just have to be good, avoiding sin and leading a decent life.

The Pope challenges this. He wants us to set our sights much higher. This is precisely what St John Paul II did and young people responded with enthusiasm. Still today, his words echo in the hearts of young people. They don’t want their lives to be mediocre. They want their lives to be significant. They want to make a real difference to the world. 

Pope Francis reminds us that the Christian life is one of spiritual combat. He says, “We can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach.” (GE 162) We are well equipped for this battle. There are many means readily at our disposal to enable us to truly become holy. All we need to do is to utilise them.

He ends his encyclical by saying, “It is my hope that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory, and let us encourage one another in this effort. In this way, we will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us.” (GE 177)

St Faustina

These are worthy thoughts for us at this Apostolic Congress on Mercy. The inspiration to this conference are the revelations of the Lord to St Faustina Kowaska.
St Faustina, in her diary, makes this extraordinary statement which should give us heart. She said, “O my Jesus, how very easy it is to become holy.” Am I hearing this aright? Easy! She completes her statement by adding, “All that is needed is a little good will.”

St Faustina is speaking of a very important spiritual principle. Spiritual advancement comes from the desire of the heart. If I want to be holy, Jesus will help me become holy. Yes, it is as simple as that. This is what St Faustina records, “If Jesus sees this little bit of good will in the soul, He hurries to give Himself to the soul and nothing can stop him, neither shortcomings nor fall – absolutely nothing.” St Faustina is clearly speaking from personal experience. She adds, “Jesus is anxious to help that soul.”

She further adds, “God is very generous and does not deny his grace to anyone.” (Diary 291)

I have been thinking recently about the topic for discernment leading up to the Plenary Council in 2020. We are being asked to consider what God wants for us in Australia at this time. When I have reflected and prayed about this the answer comes clearly to me: God wants us to be holy.

This is what God wants of us above all. That we be holy.

Listen to some words from St Faustina:
Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God. (Diary 1107)
Thus, let us desire to be holy. Let us rely on the spiritual resources available to us. Let us unite ourselves to the will of God.

Let us become holy.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Monday, August 20, 2018