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  • Benedictine Online Book Club Part 1: Living an Ordinary Life Extraordinarily Well
Benedictine Online Book Club Part 1: Living an Ordinary Life Extraordinarily Well

Benedictine Online Book Club Part 1: Living an Ordinary Life Extraordinarily Well

By Sister Mary Core, OSB

The introduction and first chapter of Gaudete et Exultate provided our Wisdom Seekers book club with plenty of material for sharing as we discussed the difference between a Papal Encyclical and a Papal Exhortation and then delved into our universal call to holiness. 

Encyclical versus Exhortation

From the Introduction (and title), we discussed briefly the fact that papal documents have different levels of teaching authority.  

An Apostolic Exhortation (such as Gaudete et Exultate) does not have the same degree of authority as an Encyclical or a Papal Bull. An Exhortation is published to encourage the faithful to live a more Christ-like and virtuous life and it is of ordinary teaching authority.   

This helped us understand the more personal and warm approach Pope Francis seems to take in Gaudete et Exultate, by contrast to our study of Laudato Si, an Encyclical, which had a stronger voice of teaching authority. 

Our Universal Call to Holiness

In Chapter One, Pope Francis focuses on the fact that we are ALL called to be holy, to become saints.  

And he tells us we are to do it in our own unique way.  

There is no uniform pattern for becoming saints. We become saints by being our own best selves, with our faults, failings and weaknesses.

The many saints mentioned by the Pope are examples of ordinary people who lived their ordinary lives extraordinarily well. (We can do that!)

We discussed some of these saints and how we can live our ordinary lives in a manner that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus. 

We even discussed what would cause us to go to hell rather than heaven.  

If God loves us so much, what would cause God to condemn us to hell?  

The question became: Does God condemn us, or do we, ourselves, choose hell on earth through our own actions/choices? Do we make our own lives hell?

We talked about how we fail to be holy when we fear what another will think of us. That is, when we do something wrong, or don’t do something right, based on social pressure. 

We discussed other factors that keep us from becoming holy including fear, the need for acceptance, feeling burdened, being overworked, or not wanting to get involved.  

We realized that our call to holiness, as the Pope says, is uniquely our own and need not be some outstanding act of heroism.   

Our call to holiness comes in our everyday, very ordinary, living out of our lives.

Questions for Your Reflection

What thoughts and reflections came for you as you read and meditated on this first chapter?

What obstacles get in the way of your being holy day-to-day?

What are some of the fruits of your everyday holiness? 

In what ways are you personally called to be holy? 

What do you think is meant by the “universal” call to holiness?         

Part 2: The Subtle Enemies of Holiness

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