I’m currently reading Gaudete et exsultate, Pope Francis’ newest apostolic exhortation, which addresses “the call to holiness in today’s world”. What I like most about his writing is the fresh, simple and pragmatic way he addresses heavy theological topics, like Gnosticism and Pelagianism, or how he takes big, broad ideas like evangelization and virtue and makes them clear and attainable.
I especially liked his take on the Beatitudes. In the past, they’ve seemed heady to me: I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally use adjectives like “poor in spirit”, “meek”, and “righteous” in my daily conversations, and I’m not totally sure what “inheriting the earth” would look like in real life. But Pope Francis gives us some pretty simple ideas on how to live out these Beatitudes that even I can understand and incorporate into regular family life.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The first Beatitude invites us to look at ourselves through the lens of the Gospel and ask where we find security in life. Sometimes the easiest way to recognize where we find security is to examine the situations in which we feel the most insecure. What makes me feel helpless, out of control and vulnerable?
This morning, the answer for me is clear. We’ve recently had to have some renovations done to our entire main floor and although the work is finally done, the furniture is still piled on top of itself and there’s a coat of white drywall dust covering everything. The girls were bickering over who was wearing whose socks AGAIN and in the chaos of the fighting and the disarray of the house, I lost it. Like, check to make sure the windows are closed because I’m about to freak out and I don’t want the neighbors to find out that I’m not the cool, collected mom I pretend to be in public.
I find my security in order, in the order of my home, the order of my emotions, the order of my relationships. When things are out of order, I feel out of control, I am not myself, and I do things that don’t reflect who I truly am and who God truly calls me to be (like screaming at my kids).
Pope Francis suggests that the first Beatitude, which calls us to be “poor in spirit”, is really a call to “holy indifference”, a virtue that St. Ignatius of Loyola describes as being “indifferent to all created things.” We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonour… or order to chaos. Holy indifference means accepting the will of God in all things: in sickness, in poverty, in the mess.
This doesn’t mean we can’t pursue our own health, wealth, or a life of order – these are all good things – but it does mean that we still seek God’s will, and our own holiness, when the thing or things on which our security hinges (a full bank account, a tidy home, control of our schedule, control of our relationships) fall short of providing the happiness and comfort we expect from them. The call to be “poor in spirit” is the call to be saints even – and especially – in the poverty created when our security is stripped away.
For me, that means asking myself: can I be holy in the mess, or does it seem that I can only be the loving, patient mom that God is calling me to be when everything is exactly as I would have it? Can I be holy even in the poverty created when the order is gone? (In the meantime, I’m off to buy my daughters two packages of very different looking socks so we can avoid any “you’re-wearing-my-socks” fights in the future.)