With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011 Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared that a “Year of Faith” will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11, 2012, the first day of the Year of Faith, is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.
The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion—to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.
The above description of the year of faith is found on our website and offers us information from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Within the Diocese of Juneau, we have already begun our preparation and we hope to provide projects and programs that will assist us in celebrating the Year of Faith.
In his letter announcing the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict said, “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”
When I read this, I recall what I learned when I first arrived as the Bishop of Juneau. I asked about the statistics of the Catholic community and learned that the Catholic community was only 10% of the overall population. Coming from Pittsburgh, that was a shock—I was accustomed to 40-44%. Then they informed me that at 10%, the Catholic community was the largest faith community in the region, and that 60% of the population was unchurched. I immediately saw this as a challenge. I became excited to think of what we could do with the Church’s efforts of the New Evangelization.
I am reminded of a story of young boy drawing in class; the teacher approaches his desk and asks him what he’s drawing. He responds, “I’m drawing a picture of God,” to which the teacher responds by saying that no one knows what God looks like. The boy then says, “Well, they will when I’m done!”
It is my hope that during and after the Year of Faith people will come to see the image of God at work in the Church—through us—especially as we grow in our understanding of the faith and heighten our participation in the faith. I am convinced that when others see the fruits of a vibrant faith in our lives and the good works that come from our living the Gospel, this will serve as a catalyst in bringing others back to faith and even help them to discover a life in Christ.
We have to exercise the spiritual gifts we’ve been given. Each of us has gifts that are uniquely our own—to utilize them gives praise to the Creator. And we are also aware of the moments when we have squandered our gifts. As Pope Benedict proclaims the Year of Faith, he speaks of how the soul continues to increase its thirst for God as it increases the exercise of prayer.
We’re not going to do it alone; we need the help of so many people within our parishes/missions throughout the diocese. Whether during or after the Year of Faith, it is our hope to bring Christ’s presence into the world.
For further reading about the Year of Faith, the USCCB offers a great amount of resources. They can be found on the Bishops’ Conference website (www.usccb.org).