This week’s big news in the Catholic world is the publication of the latest apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate. If you’re especially active on social media, your timeline might’ve been flooded with quotations and opinions since day one. However, many of us who have a packed schedule and have not had the chance to read it yet.
If you’re in the same boat, here are some tips on how (and how not!) to read Gaudete et exsultate.
Don’t head straight to social media
It’s hard to avoid other people’s opinions on the new exhortation on social media – especially on Catholic Twitter! But it’s also important that you try to refrain from reading the comments until you’ve read the exhortation for yourself.
Why? Because you probably won’t get all the information necessary is such limited characters. Not only that, you also risk forming unfair preconceived notions of the exhortation if someone has read and interpreted it differently. Remember that everyone has a different life filter that colors how they take in and interpret things.
Don’t listen to what mainstream media says
This seems like a no-brainer but it’s another one that’s hard to avoid. Mainstream media is well-known for not presenting the full facts on everything that’s reported. Even the most trustworthy periodicals and news shows will only present a snippet of what they’re reporting on.
When you add in the (often) anti-Catholic bias, you have a recipe for disaster. Just think back at all the times that mainstream media has taking snippets of papal (and even secular!) interviews out of context and only reported what was convenient to their agenda.
Do read Gaudete et exsultate for yourself
If you’re busy trying to hold down the fort at home and/or work, try breaking down the exhortation into manageable parts. If you want to read it in one sitting, which is doable if you have the time, that’s even better.
The point is to read it for yourself. I’ve also known friends who print out a copy of it (the Vatican’s website provides both a print and .pdf version for you to choose) to highlight. Invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind as you read the exhortation.
Do take notes
Pretend you’re back in school and take notes on any parts that resonate with you. You can do this either in the margins of a printed copy of the exhortation or on a separate sheet of paper.
This will also help you if you (bravely) decide to engage in public discussion of it on social media or even among friends who might’ve taken their interpretation of it from mainstream media.
Do consult the Catechism
If there is anything you don’t understand – especially when it comes to what the Church’s teachings on a particular topic are – always check the Catechism. If you want to delve deeper into that subject, you can always check official documents on the Vatican’s website. It’s better to go that extra mile and do the research yourself than get false information elsewhere.
Do be charitable in discussion
If the Dominican spirit lives within you and you choose to engage on the topic with strangers on social media, please remember to be charitable. It’s so easy to get upset and impassioned when someone begins to attack and take it out of context. Trolls are known to take pleasure in doing just that. Instead, adopt the Boy Scout’s motto and be prepared.
Whether you engage in discussion of the exhortation or not, remember that a lot can be learned from it. Whether you agree with everything that’s presented or not, a lot of fruit can be born from it. Let’s choose to do good.