The Year of Faith
Pope Benedict asks Catholics to go deeper in Church teaching by studying Creed, Catechism . . .
In the midst of the darkness of secularism and challenges to long-held beliefs about life, sexuality and religious freedom, Pope Benedict XVI is asking Catholics to rekindle the light of faith.
Beginning Oct. 11, the Holy Father is calling the Church into a Year of Faith — a time of focused examination of the Creed and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The year coincides with the council’s 50th anniversary, the 20th anniversary of the Catechism’s promulgation, and a Synod of Bishops to be held Oct. 7-28 on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
The reset button
“It’s not meant to be a gimmick where we say, ‘Let’s do a year when we talk about the faith,’” said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. “What year don’t we talk about the faith?”
Rather, he said, the Year will be a time to understand what Vatican II really meant and how it has led to the renewal of teaching the faith itself in a way that resonates with scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the councils, and the great spiritual masters.
Archbishop Lori said the Holy Father is asking Catholics during this Year to recommit themselves to teaching the faith in a way that is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, to embrace their vocations in a new and vibrant way, to win back those who are lost, to build a civilization of truth and love, and to evangelize cultures.
“It’s sort of like pressing the reset button,” he told Legatus magazine.
In announcing the Year of Faith on Oct. 11, 2011, Pope Benedict wrote in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei: “Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel — especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing.” He observed that Christians can no longer take for granted that faith is “a self-evident presupposition for life in society.”
Indeed, Catholics are regularly seeing new assaults on their faith whether it be efforts to force a redefinition of marriage or the U.S. government mandate requiring businesses and institutions, regardless of their religious beliefs, to cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
Legate Michael Warsaw, president of EWTN, the global Catholic television and radio network that also publishes the National Catholic Register, said it’s providential that the American Church is facing a religious liberty battle as the Year of Faith begins. The observance, he said, can be an opportunity to address Catholics who do not understand what’s at stake theologically and morally because they have not been properly catechized.
“If the Church is going to have an impact on the secular culture, if we’re going to be able to hold back or stem the tide of increasing secularization here and around the world, we have to have a Church of committed believers not afraid to express their faith and what the Church teaches within the public square,” he said.
Father John Wauck, professor in the School of Church Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, said the observance is more than an antidote to the problems besetting Catholics. “The Year of Faith,” he said, “is the opening salvo in a vast apostolic campaign to offer the Christian faith anew to a world that has lost its sense of direction.”
This will require that Catholics know their faith well and are ready and eager to communicate it. “In every age,” Fr. Wauck said, “the Church’s answer to the upheavals and challenges of the day is always the same: sanctity — holy men and women. That is what the Church and the world need most today.
“We cannot have a new generation of saints,” he added, “unless we are embracing and transmitting the faith in all its fullness. That’s what the Year of Faith is all about.”
As part of the Year, Pope Benedict is asking Catholics to make public professions of the Creed. Father Wauck said this is important because “now, in our world, faith is looking for a voice. In the contemporary cacophony of confusion and doubt, the Catholic faith needs to be heard in the public square, in the marketplace, in the home, on the Internet. So by making a public profession of the Creed, each one of us can give our faith the voice it so badly needs.”
In addition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has made pastoral recommendations for observance of the Year by the universal Church, bishops’ conferences, dioceses and parishes. They include:
• For all Catholics, making pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy Land and Marian shrines
• For bishops’ conferences, publication of literature to help Catholics better respond to questions about the faith
• For dioceses, organizing study days on the Catechism, catechetical events and dialogue with nonbelievers
• For parishes, renewed commitment to distributing the Catechism and other resources appropriate for families
EWTN’s Warsaw said the network will broadcast the Year of Faith’s opening Mass from Rome along with other papal events associated with the observance. Additionally, various guests on EWTN’s programs will talk about the Year, and special programming will include a series of weekly reflections.
Peter Murphy of the USCCB Office of Evangelization and Catechesis said as part of the Year, his office already has produced and posted several 45-second videos featuring personal faith testimonies. To help Catholics bolster their understanding of the faith, the USCCB’s website — which has links to the Vatican Year of Faith website, Vatican II documents, and the Creed — has enhanced its link to the Catechism and plans to set up a link to the United States Catechism for Adults.
“For many Catholics who have been going to church for years, this is a chance to grow deeper in our faith, even rediscover the faith, with a new depth and passion,” Murphy said. “Anytime we talk about evangelization, the Church says we need to be evangelized before evangelizing others. The Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to be evangelized, then hopefully be propelled with joy-filled witness to go out and share the faith with others.”
“One year won’t do it,” Archbishop Lori said, “but getting all of us firmly committed to the mission of the Church on the same page and praying and working for this can do a lot. I think this will bear good fruit in the short term and the long term.”
Judy Roberts is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.
Year of Faith Resources