Delegates at the Synod on Synodality received a copy of Holy, Not Worldly: God’s Grace Saves Us from Interior Corruption, a short, new book by Pope Francis about “spiritual worldliness.”
The book is a compilation of two letters by the pope. The first, written in 1991 by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, explores the relationship between sin and corruption. The second is called a Letter to the Priests of Rome, written in August of this year.
“The battle we carry out as followers of Jesus is first of all a battle against spiritual worldliness, which is a form of paganism in ecclesiastical clothing,” Pope Francis wrote in the introduction, which is signed “Vatican City September 30, 2023, Francis.”
Francis explained that the two letters “are united by the concern, which I feel to be a loud call from God to the entire Church, to remain vigilant and to fight with the strength of prayer against every concession to spiritual worldliness.”
The battle is called “holiness,” Francis continued. “Holiness is not a state of beatitude which one has reached once and for all. It is instead the incessant, tireless desire to remain attached to the cross of Jesus, letting ourselves be shaped by the logic that comes from the gift of self and from resisting the enemy who flatters us by convincing us that we are self-sufficient.”
“Holiness is therefore remaining open to the ‘more’ that God asks of us and that is manifested in our adherence to our daily lives,” he wrote.
Francis concluded in the introduction,
I offer these texts to the reader as an opportunity to reflect on his life and on the life of the Church, with the conviction that God asks us to be open to His newness, he asks us to be unquiet and never satisfied, searching and never stuck in comfortable opacity, not defended within the walls of false certainties, but walking on the road of holiness.
The first letter is titled Corruption and Sin, accompanied by the quote, “We should kneel only before God or before a child.”
In the preface, added in 2005, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote, “I often notice that people talk about corruption and sin as though they were identical, which is not really true. A situation of sin and a state of corruption are two different things, though closely interrelated,” where he later noted that “a habitual state of everyday complicity with sin can lead us to corruption.”
He concluded by encouraging the reader to not be afraid of hope, the antidote to spiritual worldliness.
Pope Francis gave the second letter, entitled Avoiding hypocritical formalism: Letter to the priests of the Diocese of Rome, in August 2023 at the Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
In the letter, Pope Francis explained that spiritual worldliness happens “when we allow ourselves to be fascinated by the seductions of the ephemeral, by mediocrity and habit, by the temptations of power and social influence. And, again, by vainglory and narcissism, by doctrinal intransigence and liturgical aestheticism…”
He urged the priests to “remain vigilant against clericalism,” and wrote that the daily antidote to worldliness and clericalism is to look upon the crucified Jesus, where
we learn that we are called to offer ourselves, to make ourselves broken bread for the hungry, to share the journey with the weary and oppressed. This is the priestly spirit: making ourselves servants of the People of God and not masters, washing the feet of our brethren and not trampling them underfoot.
In the letter’s conclusion, he said,
Let us move forward with enthusiasm and courage: let us work together, among priests and with our lay brothers and sisters, initiating synodal forms and paths, which will help us to strip ourselves of our worldly and ‘clerical’ certainties in order to humbly seek pastoral paths inspired by the Spirit, so that the Lord’s consolation may truly reach everyone.