I was delighted when I first read, last year, about Pope Benedict XVI’s proclamation of the Year of Faith.
Today some are keen on equating Catholicism with scandals, women priests, same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.
The Holy Father has shown that he is more than willing to engage with these topics from the perspective of a disciple of Jesus Christ. He always teaches that the basis for all we do is faith – a faith that guides us and allows us to think, act, interact, and even love, because we trust that there is love at the heart of the universe, and a providence that draws us to our ends. This faith is grounded in the fact that Christianity is an event, an event, an encounter with Jesus Christ. It is the primacy of this event that the Holy Father is calling us to celebrate through the Year of Faith.
The Year of Faith, which will run from 11th October 2012 to the solemnity of Christ the King, November 24th, 2013 will give us the most valuable opportunity to celebrate the event of our encounter with the person of Jesus, to live it more intensely and to enable others to this encounter.
In announcing this special Year the Holy Father wrote an Apostolic Letter called Porta Fidei, the “door of faith”. This letter is made up of fifteen numbered paragraphs.
In paragraph 1 the Holy Father reminds us that faith comes from the hearing of the Word of God and by acceptance of it on our part. This encounter lasts a lifetime and moves us to eternity. We live this experience in the light of God who is Love and who is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Holy Father points out in paragraph 2 that since climbing the throne of Peter he has insisted that we should rediscover this journey of faith and live with joy the encounter with Christ. The Church must continue the vocation given to Moses of leading the people to the Promised Land through the wilderness of a profound crisis of faith.
Paragraph 3 speaks about the importance of believing in Jesus; of remaining steadfast, of being salt, light and to draw living water from him. It seems that here the Holy Father is suggesting that this is the valid answer we can offer to a world in crisis: our experience of the event of our encounter with Jesus and thus its ecclesial context.
The fourth paragraph gives the dates of the year of faith and points out that this will occur on the fiftieth anniversary since the start of Vatican II and the twentieth from the promulgation of that great gift: The Catechism of the Catholic Church. We are also reminded of the last year of Faith celebrated in 1967 by Pope Paul VI who left the “Credo of the People of God”, as an everlasting legacy of that year.
Paragraph five tells us that during this special year we shall have the opportunity to appreciate the texts of Vatican II, which in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “…have lost nothing of their value or brilliance”. This year will present us with an opportunity to re-receive these documents of Vatican II and their possibility to bring about a powerful renewal of the Church.
The renewal of the Church is also achieved in the lives of holy people who live in their bodies the mystery of Easter. These people radiate the light of Christ until its fulfillment in the end of time. Paragraph 6 encourages us to see the year of Faith as a call to authentic conversion to the Lord that through faith we can live the new life that shapes our human existence. Faith working through love will change the whole of our life.
We are sent so that many can come to share the love of Christ, convoking a church with a Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Paragraph 7 shows us that through believing faith is stronger as we abandon ourselves into the loving hands of God. Paragraph 8 is an invitation for all bishops to celebrate worthily this year of faith that offers to all an opportunity to publicly profess the faith.
The reason for calling a year of faith is given in paragraph 9: “…to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.” What a noble reason indeed. The Holy Father prays that the fullness of faith lived and nurtured during the celebration of the Eucharist may be lived and prayed by every believer. That is why the early Christians learnt their creed by memory so that they could renew and pray their faith. Why not learn the creed by heart and pray it every day as we prepare for this great gift of the year of faith?
Paragraph 10 expresses the harmony between the gift of God in our hearts: faith and the gift of grace: making the person a new creation as he lives what he believes. Acts 16:14 is here quoted to show that it is not sufficient to know the content of faith, the heart needs to be opened by grace to allow the knowledge of the mind to bear fruit. This lived faith is expressed in public commitment, as faith can never be a private act. The day of Pentecost is witness to this and the Holy Spirit outpoured on that day still brings to fruition the faith in every believer. The faith of the believer is the faith of the Church – “I believe” is the “I believe” of the Church in which every believer participates and makes it his/her own. Assenting to this faith implies knowing it, knowing the Mystery of love.
We live in a situation where not all profess this faith. Some are searching, and this search needs to be honoured as it is the preamble of faith.
A systematic and genuine presentation of the content of faith is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 11 urges all believers to take hold of their copies of this Catechism in which we are not presented with a theory but an encounter with the living person of Christ.
Paragraph 12 asks us to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a tool to support the faith in our formation. A formation that prepares us to encounter the many questions posed to us from the world and thus show the harmony between faith and reason.
Of decisive importance in this year of Faith (para 13) is retracing the history of our faith. Keeping our gaze fixed on Christ we see the fullness of light. We see how others accepted and lived this light: Mary, the apostles, the martyrs and man and women of all ages who have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus.
Paragraph 14 tells us that faith without love bears no fruit and encourages us to allow faith to enable us to recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love.
Faith commits us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. In paragraph 15 the Holy Father tells us that what the world needs is the credible witness of people enlightened by the word of the Lord. The Pope ends by entrusting this year to Mary the one who believed.
So let us accept this grace – the Year of Faith – with both hands and start from today preparing for celebrating it to the full.
Read the letter itself here.