In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis reaffirms the universal call to holiness and says that he explicitly wishes to propose it “in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities” (2). My colleagues David Cloutier and Matthew Shadle have already reflected on key themes of the document here and here, so I will try to avoid repeating what they have articulated so well already. I will focus on the theme of spirituality in everyday life, and especially on how the pope describes ordinary work as a path of sanctification. As a lay woman theologian who is also a working mom, my daily life combines both reflection on the reality of God and mundane tasks to keep the family going. But it would be a mistake to think that one is superior to the other in terms of bringing me closer to God.
Much of what Pope Francis writes about regarding holiness in ordinary life is not new. Ignatian spirituality has been a resource for many Christian seekers who have found encouragement to “find God in all things.” Kathleen Norris, in her 1998 Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality, “The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women’s Work,” draws on monastic traditions and feminist theology to help readers think about how daily work can be a place for finding God. Wendy Wright, James Martin, SJ, Henri Nouwen, Gregory Boyle, SJ, and many others have written about the spiritual life and finding God in unlikely ‘everyday’ places.
Here are some of the messages I found most life-affirming in Gaudete et Exsultate: