By Richard Marsden
Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate places a significant emphasis on the call to holiness in everyday life and refers to the witness of lay people in a particular way.
This call to imitate Christ in daily activities in the family, marriage and work is exactly the message promoted and lived throughout the world by the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei, founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá in 1928.
Vatican News' Richard Marsden spoke to Jack Valero, the Communications Director of Opus Dei in the United Kingdom, on his reaction to Gaudete et Exsultate.
Holiness in the normality of life
Valero said: “This is a wonderful document addressed to everyone, absolutely everyone, and telling them you don’t need to be a special person, or a priest, or a nun, or a pope to strive for holiness. Everybody should strive for holiness and it’s very easy: you just need to want and to allow God to do it in you – the grace of God is always available to everyone.
“It’s in the normal daily things of life that you are going to find that holiness. That really taps into the kind of spirituality that we’ve been talking about for many years in Opus Dei, to the many lay people that come to our activities.”
Valero said Pope Francis outlines the traditional ways of striving for holiness – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – with a particular emphasis on the third of these which involves “looking at the people around us and seeing that they represent Christ for us.”
Merciful actions and holiness in work
As well as the importance of works of mercy to those in need, Valero also pointed out that striving for holiness involves “going to work, doing your work well, and relating to your colleagues at work.” He also emphasised the example Pope Francis uses of parents looking after their children. “So every action with regard to daily life with regard to other people is part of this striving for holiness,” Valero added.
The family as a school for holiness
Holiness lived by parents provides a good example to their children on how to grow in faith, Valero explained. “Vocations in our experience come from good families. We see that vocations to celibacy for example – to the priesthood, religious life or commitment to celibacy among lay people – come from families where marriages are strong.”
Misuse of social media
Valero is also the coordinator of Catholic Voices UK, a project which offers speakers to the media for comment from a Catholic perspective.
Reacting to Pope Francis’s warning in the apostolic exhortation against the misuse of digital media through “networks of verbal violence”, Valero called gossip “dangerous and destructive” and emphasised that Catholics “need to learn how to use these technologies well.”