Holiness is fullness of life and synonymous with happiness
By Mother Evonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Salesian Sisters
At the beginning of the new year, we welcome with joy and gratitude the comment of Strenna 2019 that the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, presented at the Generalate on 27 December. This annual event brought a breath of Salesian and ecclesial air to all of us, thanks to the enthusiasm and depth with which the theme was presented to us:
“That my joy may be in you” (Jn 15:11)
HOLINESS ALSO FOR YOU
The Strenna is like a wakeup call to keep us alert and in full harmony with what Pope Francis writes in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate. The Strenna intends to highlight the ‘least visible treasure of holiness’, that of ‘next door holiness’ as Pope Francis calls it. Holiness is not a word frequently used by young people, but it is desired because of the profound yearning of every person: to reach that horizon of transcendence and fullness that we all carry in our hearts, believers and non-believers alike. The proposal of holiness, the Rector Major emphasizes, is addressed to everyone: adults and young people. For Christians in particular, holiness is fullness of life and synonymous with happiness, the beatitude that challenges every woman and every man of today and in all situations of life.
I am sure, that reading, reflecting on, and sharing the Strenna with the educating community will be a good opportunity to discover that holiness generates life and hope. The Lord asks us for everything and what He offers us is true life, the happiness for which He created us. He wants us to be saints and has very high expectations in our regard. He does not want us to settle for mediocrity, for an inconsistent and watered-down existence. No, He wants us to be saints and saints willing, at any cost, to embody the vocation to holiness in the current context, with its challenges and its risks.
I would like to particularly dwell on the second part of the Strenna, which bears the title: Jesus is happiness. I consider it significant for the real aspirations in all of us and the many young people described as ‘restless dreamers’, because I think they want something that is great, beautiful, true. It is a restlessness that also affects us as adults so that we will help them to dream big with courage and determination.
It is a page of profound evangelical spirituality interpreted with Salesian sensibility. It presents a brief overview of the wonderful messages launched to young people by St John Paul II: “It is Jesus whom you seek when you dream of happiness.” And Benedict XVI: “Dear young people, the happiness you seek, the happiness you are entitled to enjoy has a name, a face: that of Jesus of Nazareth... Let yourself be surprised by Christ! Give him the ‘right to speak to you’.” And Pope Francis with great sincerity emphasizes that happiness is not negotiable: “Your happiness is priceless and it is not sold; it is not an ‘app’ that you download on your phone”.
Holiness is not the privilege of a few, but is a right of everyone. Every human being as such, says Pope Francis, has the right to live and be happy. Studying the Strenna in its richness raises many questions that we welcome as a valuable gift. Do we believe it is possible to walk towards the goal of holiness and consider it a “vocation, a responsibility, a commitment, a gift”?
Do we ask the Lord with confidence to reach the degree of holiness that He has always planned for each of us? Do we allow the invitation to be holy as God is holy to resound in us? I am convinced that if we were all firmly oriented towards this high goal of life, our realities would show more clearly the union of hearts, the contagious joy that radiates and reaches the young and the poorest youth, the vulnerable and forgotten, and even those searching for authentic happiness, for the meaning of an existence worthy of the person who is a child of God. Our happiness is to see the young happy: is this not so?
Holiness and happiness are two inseparable values; they cannot be separated from each other. For us, it is a daily call to “live for the glory of God by our service for the evangelization of young people, walking with them on the path to holiness”.
I conclude by wishing you, the educating communities, your young people, and your families a happy new year 2019, grateful for the holiness that enriches the Church and our great Family. God bless you!
Rome 1 January 2019