June 22, 2012


Celebrating a year of faith

The Year of Faith is a celebration by the entire Catholic Church that begins Oct. 1, 2012—the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—and concludes on Nov. 14, 2013, the feast of Christ the King.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the Year of Faith to confront secularism and other challenges faced by our Church, and to encourage Catholics to rediscover the faith and the “joy and enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”

The Year of Faith focuses on the “new evangelization.” This effort to rekindle the faith of all Catholic Christians, whether practicing or not, was a central theme of Blessed Pope John Paul II. It has been continued and expanded under Pope Benedict.

Too often in the past, we Catholics considered the mission of “evangelization” to be the work of missionaries who traveled to foreign lands or remote areas of our own country to spread the Gospel to those who had never been presented with the truths of our Catholic faith.

Recent popes since the time of the Second Vatican Council have affirmed the work of those who introduce the person of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard his Good News. But they have also emphasized the importance of calling all baptized Christians to a renewed encounter with the One who is the source and substance of all that we believe.

Why should we observe a Year of Faith? With all the pressing issues facing our Church and our society today, why is it important to take time out to revisit our most fundamental beliefs as a community of Jesus’ disciples?

According to Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, “The central image of the Year of Faith is the ‘door of faith’ based on [the] Acts of the Apostles.

In his presentation to the bishops during their summer meeting in Atlanta last week, Bishop Ricken noted that “the ‘door of faith’ is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year we are called to open it again, walk through it, and rediscover and renew our relationship with Christ and his Church.”

The Year of Faith calls us to rediscover and renew what happened to each of us at the time of our baptism. We were called out of darkness into the light of Christ. We were washed clean from the stain of sin, and we submitted to sharing in the death of Christ in order to rise again with him to new life.

These are powerful images—darkness, sin and death being overcome by the encounter with Christ, who is light, holiness and everlasting life. It’s a good idea to reopen the “door of faith” periodically to remind ourselves that we have been transformed by grace and now are called to live as saints, the children of God and disciples of Christ, who bear witness to our Lord’s victory over darkness, sin and death.

Living in a predominately secular culture, we forget how blessed we are. We too often give in to the temptation to think that the sin and evil all around us will have the last word. We need to be reminded—sometimes forcibly—that we have reason to celebrate and be joyful because we have been united with Christ through our baptism.

In his presentation, Bishop Ricken said the U.S. bishops’ promotion of the Year of Faith will include strategies as diverse as homily helps for pastors, a gathering of theology professors and even Facebook posts.

The bishops’ efforts are a response to recommendations made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on how bishops’ conferences can help dioceses in their observances of the Year of Faith.

Pope Benedict has made this Year of Faith a priority. He believes strongly that a fundamental renewal of the experience of baptism is critical to our experience of the faith, not as “rules and regulations” or burdens that weigh us down.

Christian faith can, and should, be a source of liberation and an experience of joy. To get to that point, especially in today’s secular culture, we have to rediscover and renew the freedom that can only come from conversion in Christ.

Other online resources for the Year of Faith include the expansion of Facebook posts about the lives of saints, an online catechism quiz and a USCCB webpage at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith.

Let’s make the Year of Faith a year of renewal and rediscovery. Let’s make it an opportunity to meet the Lord face-to-face in our prayer, in the sacraments and in our service to those in need.

—Daniel Conway

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