FOR A PEDAGOGY OF HOLINESS
In the heart of the Christian life the gift of holiness shines as a free act of God’s love who calls us to enter into intimacy with the mystery of the Trinity, to become, in a process of continuous transformation, the image of Jesus, his Son. The purpose of existence is realizing this grand project, and while that purpose is being realized, it releases, supports, supplements and enriches our life to turn it into a masterpiece of beauty, a song of joy.
Christians of all times were aware of that call and you can see the vast array of saints, canonized or not, as the score of a thousand notes, creating a magnificent symphony that emanates from the heart of the Church. However, a significant contribution, in realization of the ineluctable appeal came from the Vatican II when reminded forcefully to God’s people called to the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity (LG 40). This solicitation, as a breath of spring air, has guided the process of post-conciliar renewal, enlivening of this prospect the pathways for formation and education of all Christian and religious communities.
At the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era this commandment is being replicated by Blessed John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte, inviting the ecclesial communities and Christian families to feel personally the invite to engage in the way of holiness as the “high standard of ordinary Christian life” (n. 31)...
In times of sad passions and resized ideals, if not erased, talking about holiness and educating to holiness is not only the discussion for reserved people, but it is a challenge that first of all challenges individually each person to verify the quality of his Christian life, and then causes those who are mature in their faith to feel like their the task of leading the new generations in the way of holiness being teachers for them, or experts companions, in this vital route.
The holiness: falling in love with Christ
“If you want to build a ship, do not summon some men gathering wood and distributing tasks, but rather teach them a longing for the wide and endless sea” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery).
The poet’s award is not out of place if we think the risk of neglecting always lurking what makes holiness that must be, that is to lose sight of the fascinating horizon that only can activate the energies of mind and heart towards the ideal. This horizon is love. The saints, we know, were not perfect, but they loved God to complete irrationality, and attending Him in the intimacy of a prayer transformed into a mystical experience of love, they have allowed to the grace to transform their lives, sanctifying.
According to the teaching of Benedict XVI to fall in love with God and His Son Jesus Christ, means to have made of Him and His Gospel the performing reality of our life, feeling Him like the Person who gives to our life a new horizon and a decisive direction. In the process of falling in love there is a component of spontaneous and mutual attraction that, cultivated through the attendance and mutual understanding, becomes progressively in love, that is the gift of self to another in a totality more and more growing up till to want to “be there for” the other. Of this love is woven holiness which, therefore, can only be dynamic, as it is a relationship between two lovers who meet by mutual meeting more new food for their love.
Falling in love, then, is not only the event which began the Christian life, but the sap that sustains the journey in a way which goes from least to most, from a partial gift to the total surrender of oneself to Christ in trusting and confident donation in His love.
Two actions can steer this sublime task: get dressed and be filled with Christ. The first, dressing, the exquisite taste of Baptism, evokes the abandonment of the old man to acquire the traits of the new man, holy and just, admirably embodied in Jesus Christ. According to the Thomistic sense the term habitus refers to those behavior patterns that are fused in harmony in the personality of those who carries out certain actions. The dress ceases to be an external accessory to become a “style” of life that proceeds from the inside. As it was in Paul, putting on Christ means to have penetrated His own gestures and behaviors, making this transaction as natural and spontaneous.
Filling up of Christ evokes the Eucharistic bread with which He constantly feeds us and that gradually transforms us in Jesus, the one that hides Himself in the bread and makes Him a total gift; the disciple in love always nourishes with the Word because it is light of the eyes and fire in the heart. At a time when the “tanks are cracked” and “jars are empty,” the saints remind us that one thing is necessary: let us that the water in the jar -a metaphor for our lives- be transformed in Christ, wine of the new covenant through the powerful action of the Holy Spirit, true and unique teacher of holiness.
The first consequence of our consideration, therefore, is that holiness is not won, nor is reached, but is welcome expressing an attitude that only appears to be passive, in that the dynamics of love, the “step aside” to make room for the Other, is the only prerequisite of fertility and new life.
A simple and nice holiness
“A sad saint is a saint sad,” said St. Francis de Sales. In fact, the charm of holiness is not only related to love, but also to the joy, as a gift that comes from the life of the man or woman that has found its meaning in God. At the core of all life as its primary and last sense, God welling joy, is in itself pure joy of existence. Similarly, the saints, covered and filled with God, are sharing of his joy and becoming an inexhaustible source.
At this point the question arises: How happens that the proclamation of the Church is filled at times of death and sadness instead of joy and life? The risk is to resemble to the disciples of Emmaus who “tell their frustration and their loss of hope. They can say, for the Church of all times, the possibility of an announcement that does not give life, but keep closed in death the announced Christ, the receivers and the announcers.”
Perhaps the joy that definitely lives the sons and daughters of God, needs to be awakened, informed, announced. Our society, saddened by worry and uncertainty, demand it. Facing with such a cry it is not lawful to shut himself in the rear by calculation or fear. It is urgent therefore to recover courage and authority, well aware that we possess a treasure that we are not allowed either to hide or to squander. St. John Bosco, an expert educator and connoisseur of young nature, had found the convincing words to announce a sympathetic and simple holiness, to which young people could not resist: “My dear young people -he said- I want to teach a method of Christian life, that is at the same time cheerful and happy, indicating such as are real fun and real pleasure, so that you can say with the holy prophet David: serve the Lord in holy joy.”
The message of joy and life that comes from holiness is what men and women of the third millennium need more. They are hungry and thirsty in particular young people, boys and girls, natural “hunters” of joy to which often our affluent societies have responded with disappointing surrogates.
In contrast, the joy of the Gospel, humble and powerful, has a healing power, liberating and sanctifying: it melts the chains that hold slaves of things and the appearances; it frees the ideals of the short-term proposals mediated by publicity and consumerism; it dilates the reason imprisoned by relativism and anthropological pessimism with the light of truth; it returns to the heart reduced to its emotions new size revealing the true meaning of love.
A true pedagogy of holiness is a genuine process of humanization, route that, if carried, becomes a pedagogy of the person and for the person, in which shines with increasing transparency and truth, the image of someone who has created and has always dreamed holy and perfect in the love, in the image of his Son.
Piera Ruffinatto fma