Rejoice and be glad! Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus has chosen us to be saints. In his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exultate, he restates our call to holiness in a practical way for our time. He says: “Holiness is not about swooning in mystic rapture. Holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full.” (GE 21, 96) In Chapter 4, Holy Father offers five great expressions of love for God and neighbour that he considers of particular importance.
Here are some practical Dos and DON’Ts on how we can practise those five spiritual attitudes during our travels.
1. Perseverance, patience and meekness
- Don’t jump queue, or grab too much from the buffet table, or hog a scenic spot seeking that perfect shot. “We need to recognise and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root.” (GE 114) and if we ourselves succumb, do apologise instead of being defensive. “Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations. Without them, there is no humility or holiness.” (GE 116)
- Do remain calm if others are aggressive or selfish, and do be patient and gentle in correcting them. “Be angry but do not sin; inner strength, as the work of grace, prevents us from becoming carried away by the violence that is so much a part of life today. Saints hesitate to treat others harshly.” (GE 116)
- Do offer up to the Lord any frustration with travel plans gone awry, or dissatisfaction with service providers or fellow travellers. “Saints do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters, and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others.” (GE 116)
2. Joy and a sense of humour
- Do smile and have fun – you’re on holiday! “With the love of a father, God tells us: ‘My son, treat yourself well… Do not deprive yourself of a happy day’ (Sir 14:11.14). He wants us to be positive, grateful and uncomplicated.” (GE 127)
- Don’t worry! God will provide what we forgot to pack or plan for. And if others are lacking, we too can share what we have with them. “Fraternal love increases our capacity for joy, since it makes us capable of rejoicing in the good of others.” (GE 128)
- Do count your blessings. If your things get stolen, do bless the person who took them – who knows what made them do it. If your things are lost or damaged, do thank God you were fortunate enough to possess them in the first place. “We should remain resilient and imitate Saint Paul: ‘I have learned to be content with what I have’ (Phil 4:11). Saint Francis of Assisi lived by this; he could be overwhelmed with gratitude before a piece of hard bread, or joyfully praise God simply for the breeze that caressed his face.” (GE 127)
3. Boldness and passion
- Do be ambassadors of Christ and Singapore. “Holiness is boldness, an impulse to evangelise and to leave a mark in this world.” (GE 129) We can, for example, bring little prayer cards or bookmarks printed by our parish or the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd which, when we give them away, give us the opportunity to share a little about our faith and our country. In encountering others, we too are encountered.
- Don’t be afraid to share your faith if the opportunity arises. “The Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life.” (GE 138) If someone is in need, lead a prayer for them. If someone asks about your rosary beads, share your love for Our Lady. Simply make the sign of the cross at meals and preach the Holy Trinity without words. Post photos on social media with a short write-up on how it is connected to your faith.
- Do say and do everything with a smile. “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humour. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit.” (GE 122)
4. In community
- Do let go of your handphones and cameras once in a while to do stuff together as family, friends or fellow travellers – if you must, take we-fies instead of selfies. “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.” (GE 141)
- Do resist the urge to go shopping, snacking or just sneaking off to “do our own thing”, instead listen or learn about people or places from the guide, or otherwise following the itinerary. “Contrary to the growing consumerist individualism that tends to isolate us in a quest for well-being apart from others, our path to holiness can only make us identify all the more with Jesus’ prayer ‘that all may be one.'” (GE 146)
- Do small things with great love with others, respecting their human dignity, for example, help others with their bags and take photos for them; lay hands on them (with their permission) or just spend time with them if they are unwell; be courteous to servers and bargain with shopkeepers with cheer and goodwill. “The common life is made up of small everyday things. A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelising environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present.” (GE 143, 145)
5. In constant prayer
- Do “remember that holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent. The saints are distinguished by a spirit of prayer and a need for communion with God.” Pope Francis suggests three ways to pray (GE 154):
- Prayer of supplication: “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?” (GE 151) Make time to pray, reflect and journal in quiet time with the Lord every day (you can use the CatholicSG app to help you), and take time to smell the roses and admire the scenery and praise God for creation;
- Prayer of petition: it “calms our hearts and helps us persevere in hope.” If in need, do “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)
- Prayer of intercession: it “has particular value, for it is an act of trust in God and, at the same time, an expression of love for our neighbour.” (GE 154) Besides praying for our own families, let’s do:
- When saying grace at meals, thank not only God and the hands who prepared the meal, but also for those who planted, harvested and transported its ingredients;
- Pray for God’s blessings on the lands through/over which your car, bus, airplane, train or boat – or your feet – pass through; and all their passengers;
- When visiting a Catholic church overseas, pray for the Church in that country, the Church at home, and the universal Church with Pope Francis as Chief Shepherd;
- When visiting a non-Catholic Christian church, pray for ecumenical dialogue and unity;
- When visiting a non-Christian place of worship, pray for inter-religious harmony and peace.
Rejoice and be glad! It’s not scary to be saintly. It’s actually simple, and everyone should give it a go. “Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy!” (GE 9, 32) We all have our own unique and creative ways of being salt to the earth and light to the world. So let’s joyfully embrace our call to be saints on our staycations, apostles on our excursions, and evangelists on our expeditions. Our new vocation starts this vacation!