Tag Archives: year of faith

The Year of Faith and the Christian moral life

Christian Brugger explains why the Year of Faith, which marks Veritatis Splendor‘s 20th anniversary, calls for a renewed effort to evangelize. Pope Benedict, he says, is aware of the loss of Christian faith in formerly Christian Europe and the Americas. For years he’s been saying that Europe’s loss of faith spells the ultimate end of its culture . . . .

Christian Brugger

Christian Brugger

A comment on the New York Times’ website is rather telling: “I am tired of the Catholic bishops interfering” (11/24/12). The writer was worked up over the Wisconsin bishops’ statement issued last July criticizing a new type of living will for fear it might open the way for passive euthanasia.

People don’t seem to care much about the doctrines of Catholic faith. Unlike in the fourth or 15th century, beliefs such as the two natures of Christ or the power to confer the sacraments don’t elicit much protest. But the Church’s stance on moral issues brings out the fight in people: Keep your religion to yourself; get your hands off my body parts; stay out of my bedroom, etc. Catholics are told that they oppose “marriage equality,” that they wage “war on women,” and that they “condemn people to die from AIDS.” Moral issues are the battlegrounds of our age.

We’ve just begun the Holy Year of Faith. It’s called “holy” because its purpose is to encourage holiness among Christians. Holiness is more than professing beliefs, even true beliefs. Holiness is the integration of all one’s thoughts, plans and actions around the truths of the Christian faith so that our whole person expresses and serves charity. We might say that holiness is living faith — faith perspicuously and coherently alive in action.

But what is faith? Faith, the Catechism teaches, is our response to divine revelation. Divine revelation is God’s self-communication to humanity — God’s gift of himself to us. Through this gift, he invites us into a personal salvific relationship with himself.

Faith is our acceptance of God’s invitation. Our acceptance has two chief dimensions: a cognitive one and a moral one. The cognitive one — believing in the truths of revelation — is responsible for shaping our understanding of reality, how we think. The moral one is responsible for shaping how we live our lives in light of reality. It includes all the implications of the truths of faith for Christian living.

Faith and life. It sounds simple. And yet the temptation to separate the two, to detach what we believe from how we live, is strong. When he observed that temptation increasing in the Western world 20 years ago, Pope John Paul II issued his great encyclical on moral theology, Veritatis Splendor (1993). The Pope wrote the document in response to the raging crisis of dissent from the Church’s authoritative moral teaching in Europe and North America. Traditional norms in sexual ethics and the ethics of human life were being systematically denied by large numbers of Catholic theologians, including those teaching at Catholic universities and seminaries.

In the encyclical’s first chapter, John Paul reflects on the dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19, reasserting the inseparable connection between faith and life. Jesus says to the young man who wishes to know what he should do to gain eternal life: “Go, sell all your possessions and give them to the poor, then come follow me.” John Paul notes that Jesus here inextricably links discipleship to conduct.

He then goes on to write, “The Church is in fact a communion both of faith and life; her rule of life is ‘faith working through love.’ No damage must be done to the harmony between faith and life.” He then warns: “The unity of the Church is damaged not only by Christians who reject or distort the truths of faith, but also by those who disregard the moral obligations to which they are called by the Gospel” (# 26). Authentic Christian faith always expresses itself in a Christian way of life.

Pope Benedict XVI is well aware of the fact that the Year of Faith coincides with the 20th anniversary of Veritatis Splendor’s publication. He is also keenly aware of the loss of Christian faith in formerly Christian Europe and the Americas. For many years he’s been saying that Europe’s loss of Christian faith spells the demise of the continent’s 1,500-year-old culture. When a people loses its faith, the culture that their faith built goes with it.

There are two types of holy years — ordinary and extraordinary. An extraordinary holy year marks some outstanding event or theme; an ordinary one marks the passage of years. The Year of Faith is an extraordinary holy year. And extraordinary it is! The post-Christian Western world badly needs extraordinary grace to throw off the fatal mistress of disbelief with whom she’s danced now for over a century.

More than ever we need to pray for the new evangelization!

E. Christian Brugger is the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He is also a Senior Fellow in Ethics and Director of the Fellows Program at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Post-Christian America

Patrick Novecosky writes that America’s Christians roots have eroded considerably . . .

Patrick Novecosky

President Obama drew fire in 2008 for saying that America was no longer a “Christian nation.” With his reelection last month, many are beginning to realize that he might have been right. In November, four states rejected traditional marriage, and Florida voters rejected an amendment that would have protected religious liberty.

Obama has, quite literally, declared war on Christianity in America. Earlier this year, the President targeted Catholics with the Health and Human Services mandate that forces Catholic employers to provide employees with free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The bishops responded with a successful Fortnight for Freedom last summer. A great number of bishops spoke adamantly against voting for the man. Yet Obama still garnered 50% of the Catholic vote (42% of “active Catholics” voted for him).

Faithful Catholics were left angry and confused by the results — and rightly so. Many conservative pundits have weighed in on how to explain the outcome. My theory is relatively simple. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the Beatitudes. One of them sticks out for me: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” Sadly, few Americans (Catholics included) fit that description today. A majority of Catholics have abandoned the sacraments — particularly Confession — and embraced a hedonistic secular culture.

Few seem to realize how profoundly sin blinds us to the truth. It cuts us off from God and from knowing that our eternal destiny is either heaven or hell. When our hearts and minds are clouded by sin, then logic, reason and truth become irrelevant. As a nation, we suffer from spiritual blindness and no longer recognize many self-evident truths. The Catechism teaches that “by deviating from the moral law, man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth” (CCC #1740).

As Fr. C. John McCloskey III wrote so eloquently earlier this year, “America needs witness, not enthusiasm. The United States will either become predominantly Catholic in numbers, faith, and morals or perish under the weight of its unbridled hedonism and corruption.”

We who fully embrace the truth must seize this Year of Faith. This may be our best opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ and our understanding of that truth taught by the Catholic Church. Then we must go out boldly into the world and let the light of Christ shine through us. After all, Jesus said that we are the light of the world.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus’ magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Fifty years since Vatican II

Pope Benedict XVI opened New Evangelization synod and Year of Faith in October . . .

Pope Benedict XVI

Catholic Church of 2012 possesses “a more sober and humble joy” compared to the optimism that marked the Second Vatican Council’s opening 50 years ago,” according to Pope Benedict XVI.

“Over these 50 years we have learned and experienced how original sin exists and is translated, ever and anew, into individual sins which can also become structures of sin,” the Pope said during a candlelight vigil in St. Peter’s Square that marked the opening of the Year of Faith on Oct. 11.

“We have seen how weeds are also always present in the field of the Lord,” he added. “We have seen how human fragility is also present in the Church, how the ship of the Church is also sailing against a counter wind and is threatened by storms; and at times we have thought that the Lord is sleeping and has forgotten us.”

Year of Faith

The Holy Father spoke from the window of his study in scenes deliberately reminiscent of the opening day of Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.

“On this day 50 years ago I was in the square looking up at this window where the Good Pope, Blessed John XXIII, appeared and addressed us with unforgettable words, words full of poetry and goodness, words from the heart,” Benedict recalled.

A young priest, he had participated in the Second Vatican Council as an academic adviser to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne. The Pope also recalled how the happy and enthusiastic crowds of 1962 were certain that “a new springtime for the Church was in the offing.

“Today too we are happy. We have joy in our hearts but, I would say, it is perhaps a more sober and humble joy,” he said.

Over the past half-century, he said, the Church has repeatedly witnessed “how the Lord does not forget us” but, instead, has brought forth new signs of life throughout the Church that “illuminate the world and give us a guarantee of God’s goodness.”

New Evangelization

A few days earlier, the Holy Father inaugurated the Synod for the New Evangelization. Bishops from around the world gathered in Rome to discuss and plan ways to implement the new evangelization in the Church and in their dioceses.

Two Legates attended the synod. Curtis Martin, Denver Chapter, attended as a consultor and Ralph Martin (no relation), Ann Arbor Chapter, attended as an expert. Both men are members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

The Pope officially opened the synod, under the theme “The New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith” with the celebration of Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 7.

In his homily, Benedict reflected on Christ’s call to announce the Gospel around the world. He stressed the role of the Catholic Church, saying that the “Church exists to evangelize.”

“Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific ‘branches’ developed by it, that is, on the one hand the missio ad gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the new evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.”

The Pope reiterated the synodal assembly’s purpose to evangelize those who have strayed from the faith, saying its rediscovery can be a “source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life.”

In recalling the Second Vatican Council’s call to holiness for all Christians, Benedict said the call to holiness also helps us to contemplate the fragility, and even the sins of Christians. He emphasized that it’s not possible to speak of the new evangelization without “a sincere desire for conversion.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily asking the intercession of the saints and “great evangelizers” — particularly his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, referring to the late pope’s pontificate as “an example of the new evangelization.”

This article contains reporting from the Catholic News Agency

Year of Faith: A call to love

Legatus chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs writes that now is the time to activate our faith . . .

Bishop Sam Jacobs

Pope Benedict XVI is inviting Catholics around the world to grow deeper in their understanding of the faith and to fall more deeply in love with our Lord Jesus Christ. To accomplish this, he has invited the Universal Church to a Year of Faith.

This special year begins on Oct. 11, 2012 — the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council — and ends on Nov. 24, 2013. (See related story on page 16.) This is not the first time that the Church has celebrated a Year of Faith in recent memory. In 1967, Pope Paul VI called for such an observance in commemoration of the 19th century since the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul.

In writing about the current celebration, Pope Benedict said: “This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” (Porta Fidei, #4). He goes on to say that the Year of Faith “is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins” (#6).

Our faith is not a matter of verbal or mental assent to statements. Faith centers on the person of God. To say “I believe in One God” is to assent to a personal commitment to the One God who has revealed himself to the world. It is a commitment to accept who God is and to follow him with one’s total being. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (CCC, #150).

As children, most of us were baptized into the faith, which was revealed by Jesus Christ to the apostles and their successors. It was the faith of our parents — even if it was limited — that brought us to the saving waters of regeneration and new life. We became sons and daughters of God. Over the years, our parents and others have taught us the fundamental aspects of our faith as we progressed on the journey of faith from Baptism to first Penance to first Eucharist to Confirmation to Marriage or Orders.

For the most part the message was mere words that we heard and accepted but for some time may not have been fully appropriated in the core of our being. We were sacramentalized and catechized but not fully evangelized. We may have known the teachings, but did we fully know and accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives? We may have recited the creedal statements in a memorized, rote manner while never living their full meaning in our daily lives. There may have been a disconnection between what we professed and how we lived.

Faith is a gift from God, but a gift that needs to be developed and acted upon. The muscles in my arms are physical gifts that enable me to lift and move things. But if my arm is strapped to my body for 10 years, those muscles unexercised will atrophy and become almost useless to me. Just to know something in my head and not live it in my heart and in my life will end in spiritual atrophy. Just as a child’s body in an adult frame is very limited and may be more susceptible to disease, so a child-limited faith in an adult is very weak indeed and susceptible to many threats to one’s faith.

Our faith is not a private component of our lives. My faith is to be witnessed by others as something real and authentic, not just mere words. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, millions of Christians throughout the centuries have endured suffering and even death. Their faith and love, their commitment and trust in the one who gave His life for them, motivated them to choose life with Jesus rather than life without Jesus. At the same time there are examples of people whose faith was weak and undeveloped and, because of this, gave in to the threats of their persecutors in order to save their human lives.

During this Year of Faith we are called to become more conscious of what has been handed down to us and to fully embrace it both in our head and in our heart. We are called to deepen our understanding and ability to express and defend our faith. We are invited to live our faith in a public way, so that our light may shine before others.

Bishop Sam Jacobs leads the Houma-Thibodaux diocese in Louisiana. He is Legatus’ international chaplain.