‘Faith isn’t just the commitment of believers. It expresses humanity’s need to look within in order to understand the desire for God that is inscribed on the heart of each person’1. In Christianity, the search for God has already received its personal focus: for centuries, Christians of various denominations have been called to witness in person to Jesus as the one Person who has such far-reaching implications for all our humanity.
Pope Benedict has spoken more than once of the relationship between faith and love: between the act of belief and ‘the fruit of the Holy Spirit, guiding us on the path of devotion to God’2. Whatever the nature or quality of our own journeys through life, a living faith shared in charity with others is still the ‘best way’: we look to Jesus (to those who witness to his Spirit) for guidance as well as support in our many undertakings – in our relationships and in our commitments – however precarious these may actually be.
The current Year of Faith was inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012 and we now have a ‘new shepherd’, Francis I, who is here to guide us through the Year of Faith (to November 24 – the Solemnity of Christ the King) and beyond3. In the footsteps of our Shepherd-King (titles applied to Jesus himself4), the Popes have seen the life of faith in terms of a journey5, and many will find it extraordinary that the Holy Father is still inviting all of humanity to share in this venture: to tread a path in the footsteps of Christ6. Evidently, to share the faith of a Pope means witnessing to a great diversity of human experience within the life of faith!
The Christian journey is much more than a voyage in time or in space. A good part of the Christian experience is an interior journey to which Jesus opens the door7: we are baptised (as we recall, every Easter at least) into Christ’s death so that we might share his eternal life8. Our Baptism, whenever it occurs, encompasses our deepest motivations – our worst trials and our greatest hopes.
Various programmes and activities have been suggested for the Year of Faith: Catholics have been invited to discover the new Catechism in more depth, as well as some of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65)9; it is certainly important for us to be able to articulate the permanent values of our faith, within our lives in the modern world as we find it.10
Some recent writings of Pope Benedict are very helpful in this respect: he has written three books entitled ‘Jesus of Nazareth’11 (one for Easter, one for Christmas and one for the rest of the year .. more or less! – well worth reading for anyone who shares the faith; and the list could be prolonged (more important still: we should have mentioned the books of Holy Scripture, and the Liturgy of the Hours, which are the source of our prayer!)
Many will go on pilgrimage this year and Catholics are reminded that any visit to a holy place can be an occasion for renewal of faith. Plenary Indulgences may be obtained by pilgrims who receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, praying for the Pope’s intentions and concluding with the Our Father, the Profession of Faith and other needful prayers (invocations to Our Lady in particular). During the Year of Faith, this may be done quite locally. Another ‘official’ suggestion: make a devout visit to the place where you were baptised and renew the promises of your Baptism (in addition to receiving the Sacraments and prayers as above)12. It is always helpful to do this with the friendship and support of a Catholic Christian who has enjoyed the pilgrimage experience.
While some of this page is compiled from official sources, several parishioners have been helping Fr Martin with its preparation and further comments or suggestions will be very welcome (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 Words of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, introducing a Year of Faith exhibition at the Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome (The Path of Peter: from 6th February 2013)
2 Message for Lent 2013; cf I Corinthians 13:13 & Galatians 5:22
3 For a fuller introduction to the Year of Faith, see Pope Benedict’s Porta Fidei, available from the Catholic Truth Society
4 John 10:11 & 19:19, etc
5 Porta Fidei 2
6 Homily of Francis I, given on the first morning of his pontificate
7 John 10:7-9 & Porta Fidei 10
8 Romans 6:3-4 & Colossians 2:12
9 Porta Fidei 5 & 11
10 Porta Fidei 4: ’The essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew’
11 available from the Catholic Truth Society
12 L’Osservatore Romano 10th October 2012, p 4