WASHINGTON—To honor the fiftieth
anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope
Benedict XVI has announced a Year of Faith, starting October 11 and ending
November 24, 2013. The goal is to strengthen the faith of Catholics and draw
the world to faith by their example.
Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay,
Wisconsin, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offers “10 Ways Catholics Can Live the
Year of Faith.” Rooted in guidelines from the Vatican’s Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, some of these suggestions are already requirements for
Catholics; others can be embraced by Catholics at all times and especially
during the Year of Faith:
1. Participate in Mass. The Year of Faith
is meant to promote the personal encounter with Jesus. This occurs most
immediately in the Eucharist. Regular Mass attendance strengthens one’s faith
through the Scriptures, the Creed, other prayers, sacred music, the homily,
receiving Communion and being part of a faith community.
2. Go to Confession. Like going to Mass,
Catholics find strength and grow deeper in their faith through participation in
the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession urges people to turn
back to God, express sorrow for falling short and open their lives to the power
of God’s healing grace. It forgives the injuries of the past and provides
strength for the future.
3. Learn about the lives of the saints. The
saints are timeless examples of how to live a Christian life, and they provide endless
hope. Not only were they sinners who kept trying to grow closer to God, but
they also exemplify ways a person can serve God: through teaching, missionary
work, charity, prayer and simply striving to please God in the ordinary actions
and decisions of daily life.
4. Read the Bible daily. Scripture offers
first-hand access to the Word of God and tells the story of human salvation.
Catholics can pray the Scriptures (through lectio
divina or other methods) to become more attuned to the Word of God. Either
way, the Bible is a must for growth in the Year of Faith.
5. Read the documents of Vatican II. The
Second Vatican Council (1962-65) ushered in a great renewal of the Church. It
impacted how Mass is celebrated, the role of the laity, how the Church understands
itself and its relationship with other Christians and non-Christians. To
continue this renewal, Catholics must understand what the Council taught and
how it enriches the lives of believers.
6. Study the Catechism. Published exactly
30 years after the start of the Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church covers the beliefs, moral
teachings, prayer and sacraments of the Catholic Church in one volume. It’s a
resource for growing in understanding of the faith. Another helpful resource is
the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).
7. Volunteer in the parish. The Year of
Faith can’t only be about study and reflection. The solid grounding of the
Scriptures, the Council and the Catechism must translate into action. The parish
is a great place to start, and each person’s gifts help build up the community.
People are welcome as ministers of hospitality, liturgical musicians, lectors, catechists
and in other roles in parish life.
8. Help those in need. The Vatican urges
Catholics to donate to charity and volunteer to help the poor during the Year
of Faith. This means to personally encounter Christ in the poor, marginalized
and vulnerable. Helping others brings Catholics face-to-face with Christ and
creates an example for the rest of the world.
9. Invite a friend to Mass. The Year of
Faith may be global in its scope, focusing on a renewal of faith and
evangelization for the whole Church, but real change occurs at the local level.
A personal invitation can make all the difference to someone who has drifted
from the faith or feels alienated from the Church. Everyone knows people like
this, so everyone can extend a loving welcome.
10. Incorporate the Beatitudes into daily life.
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) provide a rich blueprint for Christian living.
Their wisdom can help all to be more humble, patient, just, transparent,
loving, forgiving and free. It’s precisely the example of lived faith needed to
draw people to the Church in the year ahead.
Keywords: Year of Faith, Vatican, Bishop David Ricken,
Second Vatican Council, Vatican II, Catechism
of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, Committee on Evangelization and
Catechesis, New Evangelization, Scripture, Bible, charity, Mass,
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