Denver, Colo., Apr 9, 2018 / 10:43 am
In his first homily as pope, Francis quoted Leon Bloy, the French convert, author, and mystic who has influenced some of modernity's most significant literary voices. Gaudete et exsultate, the pope's newly released apostolic exhortation, again turns to Bloy, invoking the writer's famous observation that "the only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint."
Bloy was right, of course, and most of the pope's readers are likely disposed to agree with him. But there is another Bloy quote that readers of Gaudete et exsultate would do well to keep in mind: "Love does not make you weak, because it is the source of all strength."
Gaudete et exsultate was certainly written with love: whatever one thinks of Pope Francis, there is ample evidence that he loves the Church, and he loves her members. It ought to be read in love as well. But before the document was even released, a predictable fractioning of the Lord's body foretold the way the exhortation would likely be read: through the lenses of suspicion and criticism that have characterized much of the debate about Pope Francis.
Unsurprisingly, early responses to the exhortation have followed a familiar pattern.