Holiness is rooted in community
“Rejoice and be glad” (MT 5:12). Pope Francis spoke these words from the Gospel of Matthew recently in his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate. His new and inspiring work highlights the call to holiness in the world and how we must live this vocation with joy.
This last month, Legatus celebrated its 31st anniversary. At the same time, the Genesis (Toledo, OH) chapter celebrated its 30th anniversary. During the memorable celebration attended by over 120 members, Bishop of Toledo Daniel E. Thomas spoke to the chapter and offered congratulatory remarks along with a charge to the Toledo members. His charge to them is to take 30 minutes and read the Holy Father’s latest Apostolic Exhortation.
I would like to take this opportunity to pass that charge on to you, because it is truly is a work of the Holy Spirit. The idea of conforming one’s life to holiness is antithetical to what the world tells us. This is part of what makes Pope Francis’ call so incredibly important to us. Please allow me to highlight a few of my own reflections from the bishop’s presentation.
“Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Peter 1:16). Pope Francis calls on us first to be holy, for if we are living a false life, we are incapable of helping others to be holy. As such, we are all called; we all have an individual vocation to holiness. “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Each saint is on a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.”
To be holy, and to remain holy, requires us to lean on one another, to form community. Moreover, this is the purpose of Legatus, to bring us into communio. Pope Francis tells us “when we live apart from others, it is very difficult to fight against concupiscence, the snares and temptations of the devil and the selfishness of the world. Bombarded as we are by so many enticements, we can grow too isolated, lose our sense of reality and inner clarity, and easily succumb. Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.”
As I visit many chapters, I am often impressed by how many people comment to me how their lives have changed because of their involvement in Legatus. Yet, in Legatus, we don’t sell a product. What we “sell” is community.
Lastly, Pope Francis put us on guard against the “snares of the devil.” He reminded us that we are not simply in a battle against the world, but the most cunning deceiver of all. It is providential that Legatus is committed and we have dedicated our organization to St. Michael, and I encourage you all to continue invoking the protection of St. Michael in all the battles you face each day. In this way, then, we can come together to form that strong community so vital to our mission of holiness.
STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.