|Official Logo for the Year of Faith|
2. Prayer as a reciprocal conversation with God
3. The centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic belief and practice
4. Frequent confession
5. To live by grace and by the Spirit
6. Frequent meditation on the Scriptures and the New Catechism
7. The new evangelization
In this entry, we would like to focus on the possibilities for "the new evangelization". Pope John Paul II invited the Church to "launch into the deep" so that the all of humanity could "see" Jesus Christ, the "living trinity", in our communion with one another. This was and is the spiritual project of our times: "To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning…Communion must be cultivated and extended day by day and at every level in the structures of each Church's life. There, relations between Bishops, priests and deacons, between Pastors and the entire People of God, between clergy and Religious, between associations and ecclesial movements must all be clearly characterized by communion". (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 43)
We believe that this communion will best be facilitated by a pastoral plan. We can begin this process at the parish level by preparing for the Year of Faith , which runs from October 11, 2012, and ends November 23, 2013, on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ our Lord and King. Today there's a need to re-propose the faith to ourselves and to our communities. We cannot take our faith for granted. The modern secular world has put faith to the test and as a result we are experiencing in Pope Benedict's words "a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people". Surely we can see the erosion of faith in our families, our local churches and in the larger culture. The winds of secularism have swept all over Canada. Are we prepared to act to counter this? Will you help your parish devise a plan for the Year of Faith?
So what can we do for ourselves, our families, our local parish and even at the diocesan level? The Holy Father gives us some very good suggestions. However, to know about these ideas we should start by reading his insightful Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei. As we read this love letter from our spiritual father, among the many things that we will discover is that the Year of Faith marks two important dates: it's twenty years since the publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and fifty years from the opening session of Vatican II. The Pope sees the Catechism, an idea that came from the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, as "an authentic fruit" of Vatican II that gave the faithful a gift of "the power and beauty of the faith." Pope Benedict has called for another General Assembly of Bishops in October of 2012 on the theme of "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith". As a result, he wants the whole Church to be in solidarity and to take this opportunity to reflect and rediscover the faith.
Once we have read the Apostolic Letter what else can we practically do? On course pray and be inspired by the Holy Spirit. But our journey to re-discover our faith can simply begin by the realization once again that through our baptism we have already been transformed by the power of grace as our lives became part of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This continual conversion to put God at the heart of our lives, our families and our parishes is central to the new evangelization. From here, we may compare this journey of spiritual transformation to a good-sized rock tossed into deep water and the ripples moving out in all directions. At the heart of it all is Christ and the rippling water is the faith that connects us to others and to Him. Here are just a few of those personal, family and parish faith waves that can begin to move out from the centre who is Christ:
1. Together with our pastors make a plan for the Year of Faith or some other pastoral initiative; we will focus here on point number seven, the new evangelization, but we must always be working on points one to six if the this last initiative is going to succeed;
2. Study and read all or parts the Catechism;
3. Read and study one or more of the Vatican II documents; this is a wonderful way to start or re-build one's spiritual journey;
4. Read about the lives of the saints, especially if your church is named after one of them; think of organizing a parish pilgrimage to places like The Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario or St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Quebec and get re-acquainted with Canada's religious roots;
5. Start a group to teach young people and in your parish marriage courses, John Paul II's the Theology of the Body; imagine the spiritual enrichment this idea would bring to every new married couple if implemented at the diocesan level;
6. Make the reading and study of YOUCAT part of the confirmation class; guiding the young in their faith journey is where we will find the future strength of the Church; have a parish concert for the young to celebrate Christian music and song;
7. Have catechism classes for elementary students as they prepare for First Holy Communion, Confession and fully participate in the Holy Mass; The St. Joseph Revised Baltimore Catechism series for all Grades is a good choice;
8. Make an effort to pray more. This could include daily prayers, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary and devotional prayers; prayer is our connection to God and it's this grace which spiritually nourishes our faith;
9. We can think of ways of being better involved in parish life and the larger community because of our faith. We should try to re-examine the importance in our Christian lives of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; we are all called to love and serve God and our neighbour; these are not options for Christians;
10. Read and study the Bible. Start a Bible group if your parish doesn't have one or follow one online;
11. Get together with others and see films about the faith. Films of the saints, the popes and the Blessed Mother are good choices for this;
12. If your parish isn't on the Internet, the Year of Faith could be used as a time to begin using the modern means of communication to revitalize and centralize parish activities; visit the official website for the Year of Faith to get ideas; a good question to ask is: How many of the faithful in your parish visit and make use of the Vatican website? or the Archdiocese of Toronto to get faith ideas as well as to offer suggestions?
13. Find out what the Vatican is doing and find ways to keep the faithful in the parish informed and connected to the universal Church; a good source for this is the Zenit website;
14. Try to connect your efforts with other parishes in the community; too often we have churches so close to our own parish and we know very little about their initiatives to evangelize; it helps to remember the words from St. Matthew, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
15. Like the Tree of Jesse have a banner, a "faith tree" or an "ark of faith" in your parish where every parishioner and family can place a note or a short letter stating what they plan to do for Christ during the Year of Faith; these intentions can be prayed for during the celebration of the Holy Mass;
16. We can all do more to fight the culture of death in our society and promote the culture of life; a great start to this project is to read Blessed John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae; another a very useful resource for this mission is the website, Helpers of God's Precious Infants;
17. No list can be exhaustive and so like the early apostles let the your imagination, the Word, your prayers and the Holy Spirit guide your community as you develop and implement the parish plan;
18. Finally, be creative and think and respond to the faith needs of your local parish community. The more we learn about our faith the more we will fall in love with it. The main idea is a simple one: Love and serve God and do the same with one's neighbours. The challenge for all our parish communities and our families is in living the truth.
Let's not forget to pray for the success of any pastoral plan, and as we develop one for the upcoming Year of Faith or for the regular liturgical year, we need to keep in mind that faith without action is dead. Let's pray that for our families and our parish communities that the Year of Faith will prove to be a great time of renewal for our love of Christ. What do you plan to do?