In praise of... not swooning

At various odd moments these past few weeks I've been reading and quietly savouring Gaudete et Exsultate - Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness in today's world. It's quite lovely, and challenging, and extremely practical: a simple, direct, encouraging manual on how to be holy, through openness to God and God's grace, and fidelity to the example and teachings of Jesus.

There are short sections on signs of holiness in such ordinary facets of life as joy and a sense of humour, passion, boldness, living in community, humility and - always - perseverance. But I rather love the section in which the pope observes drily: Holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture - definitely reassuring for those of us who have never, ever come remotely close to any sort of mystical swooning! That short, blunt sentence comes in a chapter in which Francis expands on the Beatitudes and Matthew 25 as the templates for a holiness which is practical, grounded and constantly takes us beyond ourselves and into loving service and care. And yet, holiness must find its source in God, and time spent with God; it consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration. 

Openness, not swooning...

Or, as the pope goes on to say:

We need to remember that “contemplation of the face of Jesus, died and risen, restores our humanity, even when it has been broken by the troubles of this life or marred by sin. We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ”... Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy. 

So let us live lives of holiness, marked, not by swooning in rapture, but by ordinariness; by joy and passion and service; by prayer and openness to God, and a willingness to enter into Jesus' Heart and wounds...