Happy New Year!!! I don’t know about you, but no one howled that cry at the stroke of midnight on Saturday night in my neck of the woods. But, indeed that’s where we find ourselves: at the beginning of a new liturgical year.
Well, being that New Year’s is often a time for making resolutions and plans for the upcoming year, I thought, “Why not do the same for the new Church year?”
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared this year as the Year of Faith. This, I believe, is where the Church calendar and the Year of Faith intersect in a big way. Lord knows, we need faith more than ever these days! So let’s look at what he asks of us and what we might do to respond to that call.
In a quest for my own answers, I landed on the official Year of Faith website where I found Pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith. Scrolling down, I arrived at section 4, “At the level of the parish/community/association/movement”…good stuff. As I read the recommendations, I realized how applicable they are to the individual as well as to the parish or community. I thought perhaps you might benefit from them as much as I and use them as a springboard for your own New Year’s resolutions. Make a plan; jot down some thoughts; mark you calendar or journal; take action! I encourage you to prayerfully read them and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can make this a truly faith-filled Year of Faith.
O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us! Anne
IV. At the level of the parish/community/association/movement
1. In preparation for the Year of Faith, all of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.
2. The Year of Faith “will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist.” In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.
3. Priests should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from them resources for the pastoral care of their parishes – catechesis, preaching, Sacramental preparation. They should also offer cycles of homilies on the faith or on certain specific aspects such as, for example, “the encounter with Christ”, “the fundamental contents of the Creed”, and “faith and the Church.”
4. Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, under the direction of their pastors, offer guidance in reading this precious document to groups of faithful, working toward a deeper common understanding thereof, with the goal of creating small communities of faith, and of giving witness to the Lord Jesus.
5. It is hoped that there will be a renewed commitment in parishes to the distribution of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and of other resources appropriate for families, which are true domestic churches and the primary setting for the transmission of the faith. This might be done, for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmations and Marriages. This can contribute to the deepening of Catholic teaching “in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times.”
6. The promotion of missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness, knowing that the Christian vocation “by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate.”
7. During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.
8. Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.
9. Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local Pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new Communities and Ecclesial Movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.
10. All of the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing that they “have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man.”
Faith “is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world.” Faith is both a personal and a communal act: it is a gift from God that is lived in the communion of the Church and must be communicated to the world. Every initiative for the Year of Faith should be designed to aid in the joyous rediscovery of the faith and its renewed transmission. The recommendations provided here have the goal of inviting all of the members of the Church to work so that this Year may be a special time in which we, as Christians, may share that which is most dear to us: Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, Universal King, “leader and perfecter of faith” (Hb 12: 2).