By Darren McDowell
(Coordinator of Parish Services)
How is your life of faith going? Or to put it another way, how is your relationship with God going as you live it out through the beliefs and practices of our Catholic tradition?
This is the question that the universal Church asks us to consider in this Year of Faith. This ‘year’ began on 11 October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and will conclude on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The invitation extended to us by Pope Benedict is to understand more profoundly that the foundation of Christian faith is “the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”1 Founded on the encounter with the Risen Christ, faith can be rediscovered in its wholeness and all its splendour...The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that we may be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord in the world of today - capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the “door of faith.”2
From this invitation we are invited to see that faith is more than an assent to beliefs and practices, more than simply ‘following the rules’. At its heart is our relationship with Jesus, the Risen One in whom we believe, as St. Paul wrote “I know him in whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12). The development of this relationship is at the heart of our life of faith and the way in which we invite and form others who seek to enter our Catholic community.
As we know however, faith in someone cannot be totally separated from our knowledge about them. We have faith in those around us because we know who they are, what they stand for and how they behave. Our love for them and knowledge about them go hand in hand to strengthen the faith we have in who they are and in the faith that they themselves have and believe.
Likewise, “the faith which is a personal trust in the Lord and the faith which we profess in the Creed are inseparable; they focus on each other and they require each other. There exists a profound bond between the lived faith and its contents.”3 Therefore, this Year of Faith invites us not only to consider our relationship with God in Jesus, but also our awareness and understanding of our Catholic beliefs.
So how might we make the most of this ‘Year of Faith’ the Holy Spirit is offering to us? The following are some suggestions:
1. Read and reflect upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei. You might like to do this as part of a small group reflection process.
2. Participate in the Eucharist more regularly.
3. We live our relationships – find new ways to express your faith through action within the parish or wider community.
4. Utilise the Awaken: Advent & Christmas Reflections material as either a personal reflection time or with family or community.
5. Read and reflect upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II.
6. Offer prayer for a deeper relationship with Jesus and understanding of our faith by all within our Catholic community.
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.”4 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.”5
1 Benedict XVI, Encyclical. Letter, Deus caritas est, 25 December 2005, n. 1.
2 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notes with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith.
3 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notes with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith.
4 Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei. n. 15
5 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notes with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith.