Father, I often find that special years, like the Year of Faith, pass by without people like me doing anything special to live them on a regular basis. Do you have any suggestions?
Reading Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, Door of Faith, in which he announced the present Year of Faith, I have identified three principal areas in which the Holy Father would like to see the Church grow during this year.
They are: to come to a deeper understanding of the faith, to live the faith more fully and to make an effort to share the faith with others.
As regards the first, Pope Benedict encourages especially the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He says 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” (PF 11).
There are practical ways in which we can all do this. One is simply to commit ourselves to read a little of the Catechism each day, perhaps as spiritual reading.
The Catechism is a marvellous compendium of the essential teachings of the Church and we should all be familiar with its contents.
Also, groups of people might gather to study the Catechism or the Compendium of the Catechism on a regular basis.
This could be done in their home or in the parish.
To this end they might avail themselves of the four subjects of commentary on the Catechism offered by the Catholic Adult Education Centre of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
These subjects are the Creed, the Sacraments, Moral life in Christ, and Christian Prayer. With each subject they will receive eight CDs of the lectures and a full set of notes.
The CDs that come with these subjects can also be very valuable for those who spend a lot of time in their car, enabling them to learn the faith while they drive.
Turning to the second focus of the year, to live out the faith more fully, we could strive to be more regular in our life of prayer, be it in meditation, the Rosary, morning and night prayers, the Angelus, the Divine Mercy chaplet and so on.
In addition, we can strive to improve the quality of our prayer. In this way, by talking with God and showing our love for him, our faith will grow and it will have a greater influence on our life.
As one aspect of this, we can exercise our faith by praying more insistently for all our intentions, especially those that seem most difficult to achieve: matters of health, of relationships, of marriages, of jobs … Our Lord wants us to do this: “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find” (Mt 7:7).
We recall his exhortation: “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mk 11:22-23).
Most importantly we will grow in faith by attending Mass as often as we can, receiving Communion and taking part in Eucharistic Adoration. And of course by being more regular in receiving the Sacrament of Penance.
The third focus for the Year is sharing the faith with others. We are truly blessed to have the gift of faith – for faith is always a gift from God – when there are so many people around us, even in our own families, who do not believe. God needs us to help them come to him.
We are all called to be the “light of the world” and what we cannot do, especially in this Year of Faith, is hide our light under a bushel. Rather we should heed our Lord’s words: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:14-15).
During this year we can all make an effort to be more open in sharing our faith, our values and our ideals with others, and perhaps strive to bring at least one person back to, or into the Church.
As Pope Benedict writes, “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (PF 7).