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Gathered to read and reflect on Pope Francis’ exhortation on the universal call to holiness at the Pro Sanctity House of Prayer in Omaha are, clockwise from bottom left: Tammy Hill, Franca Salvo, Sister Lucia Benedict of Ad Gentes Missionaries, Susan Miller, Stephanie Schrader and Paula Bastian. PHOTO BY LISA SPELLMAN FOR THE CATHOLIC VOICE

Catholics in archdiocese embrace, live out pope’s latest exhortation

What is holiness?
 
Some people think it is only something saints or priests or nuns are called to because of their vocation.
 
Still others think that it can only be attained through strict adherence to daily Mass.
 
But holiness, Pope Francis points out in his latest exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), is found in the everyday lives of ordinary people.
 
“It’s the mother who, even though she is tired from a long day of work, still takes the time to listen with a cheerful heart to her child,” said Franca Salvo, an Apostolic Oblate with the Pro Sanctity Movement.
 
“It is in this selfless act of giving of oneself that holiness grows,” Salvo told a group of 13 people gathered at the Pro Sanctity House of Prayer in Omaha to read, contemplate and discuss the pope’s exhortation.
 
The Apostolic Oblates is one of three associations founded by Bishop William Giaquinta in Rome in 1950. They support the Pro Sanctity Movement he began in 1974 to help Catholics live out Christ’s universal call to holiness.
 
The late-April gathering was one of three held at the prayer house to delve more deeply into the exhortation.
 
Mary Jane Tynan, a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, said she enjoyed the gathering and the simplicity of the pope’s words.
 
“He makes it (growing in holiness) practical, simple and speaks to the value of each and every person,” she said.
 
One of the simplest ways to grow in holiness is to pray, said Teresa Monaghen, who also is an Apostolic Oblate.
 
Prayer, Monaghen said, can come in different forms, whether it is the daily recitation of the rosary or just pausing to notice something beautiful and thanking God for creating it. 
 
An important aspect of prayer, she said, is the silent pause where we quietly wait and listen to what the Lord is speaking in our hearts.
 
Prayer not only deepens our relationship with Jesus but leads to a more active spiritual life, which in turn leads to more acts of love.
 
“Sharing with our neighbor, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or helping those in need all help us grow in holiness,” Monaghen said.
 
“Prayer,” said Travis Washington, “helps me not only be more consciously aware of any mistakes I might make but also more joyful.”
 
Washington, who with his wife, Nikki, and four daughters are members of St. Thomas More Parish in Omaha, said this joy strengthens him in his roles as husband, father, coworker and friend.
 
“I used to have to do the dishes as a kid all the time and resented it, but now I see it as a gift to be able to help my family and keep the kitchen clean,” he said.
 
A joyful spiritual attitude is just one of the five signs of holiness outlined in the pope’s exhortation, Salvo said. The other four are perseverance, patience and meekness; passion and boldness; constant prayer; and finally, a communal dimension of holiness.
 
While we are individually called to holiness, she said, its communal dimension is important as well: We are called to help each other grow in holiness.
 
“It’s not just for me but I’m to try to involve my family and my community,” she said.
 
Growing in holiness as a family, Nikki Washington said, can be something as simple as pointing out to your children how important it can be to smile at a passing stranger, especially those who are on the margins of society.
 
“It might be the only kind act they encounter all day,” Washington said.
 
The Washingtons have read the pope’s exhortation and loved it. They said they also make an intentional effort to start every day in prayer. The couple gathers their daughters, ranging in age from 10 to 17, in the family’s living room to reflect on what they are grateful for. Then they make prayers of petition, and finish by asking God for his guidance throughout their day.
 
“It takes nine minutes but it’s the best part of our day,” Nikki said.

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