Preparing for the Year of Faith
Next month will see the opening of the Year of Faith, - which was called for by Pope Benedict XVI. This liturgical year will begin on 11 October, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and will conclude on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. In preparation for the Year of Faith, Anthony Athanasius recently compiled the following set of Questions and Answers on behalf of the Maryvale Institute, which are reproduced here with kind permission.
What is the Year of Faith?
Pope Benedict XVI has set aside a special year for Catholics throughout the world to rediscover, and share with others, the precious gift of Faith entrusted to the Church and the personal gift of faith that we have each received from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When is the Year of Faith?
Pope Benedict XVI has decreed that the Catholic Church will observe the Year of Faith between 11 October 2012 and 24 November 2013.
What is special about the dates for the Year of Faith?
Pope Benedict has chosen to open the Year of Faith on the 11 October 2012 because that date is the anniversary of two important events in the life of the Catholic Church. The date will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962 - 8 December 1965). The same day will also mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed John Paul II.
The Year of Faith will close on 24 November 2013, the Solemn Feast of Christ the King throughout the world.
Why is the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council so important that it marks the opening of the Year of Faith?
In his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict explains that though the Second Vatican Council occurred half a century ago it remains 'the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century', which is ' sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.'
The Holy Father is also convinced that the Second Vatican Council, if interpreted and implemented according to the mind of the Church stretching back to the Apostles 'can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church'. (Porta Fidei, 5). This is why an important component of the Year of Faith will be reflection and rediscovery of the riches contained in the texts of Vatican II.
Why is the anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church so important that it also marks the opening of the Year of Faith?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a systematic presentation of the Catholic Faith that enables the faithful to know the full symphony of Faith. In the Catechism 'we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.' (Porta Fidei, 11).
Blessed John Paul II declared that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is 'a sure norm for teaching the faith'. It was his hope that it would 'serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!'
Pope Benedict XVI sees the Catechism as 'a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council'. (Porta Fidei, 11).
This is why an important component of the Year of Faith will involve a 'concerted effort by every Catholic to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church'.
What are Pope Benedict's hopes for each one of us during the Year of Faith?
The Holy Father wants us to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. He also wants us to rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. in 6:51).
The Pope wishes for us all to take this opportunity to read the documents of Vatican II correctly, to help make them become widely known and take them to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium.
The Holy Father has also expressed a desire that all Catholics should approach the Year of Faith as a time of purification for the Church - as a whole and as the individuals who belong to her. The Year of Faith, then, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord.
The Year of Faith will provide an opportunity to intensify our reflections on faith, so we acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. It will also help Catholics to profess our faith in the Risen Lord - in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world, as well as 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.
The Holy Father wants the Year of Faith to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. He wants us to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is "the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows." During the coming Year, Pope Benedict XVI wishes all the faithful to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith. This is a task that every believer must make his own.
In order for us rediscover the content of the faith, the Holy Father proposes that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict is clear that faced with the urgent need for the purification of the Church the 'one thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin.' By this the Holy Father means to encourage each one of us to become familiar with the great figures of our Faith, from Mary and the Apostles, to the saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins. Porta Fidei, 13.
Taking up one of the recurring themes of his pontificate, the Holy Father expresses the hope that the Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity for each one of us to intensify the witness of charity, which is faith in action. Pope Benedict concludes with a beautiful expression of his hopes 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. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.' Porta Fidei, 15