The decision of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to declare a Year of Faith beginning on Oct. 11, 2012, is one I hope will bear much fruit in all of our lives.
Its stated purposes are to help Catholics appreciate the gifts of faith, deepen their relationships with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.
Our Holy Father expressed his hope that the year will be "a moment of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in him and to proclaim him with joy to the people of our time". Further, it is Pope Benedict’s hope that the Year of Faith will give "renewed energy to the mission of the whole Church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life: friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life".
I was delighted that the Year of Faith will begin on Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II. It seems to me that the choice of the date highlights the Holy Father’s oft-stated commitment to living out the basic insights and pastoral direction of the council.
Reflection on this decision evoked many memories not only of that day in 1962 when the council began but also of the church’s unfolding life in the years since then. In 1962, many in the church hungered for renewal and updating; they saw the council as a graced event in which the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, could rediscover, appreciate more deeply and proclaim in a pastorally fruitful way the fullness of God’s revelation to us in Christ Jesus.
Much has happened in the 50 years since then. I think that all of us who were around in those days would agree that the church’s pastoral life has changed a good deal. A few examples: We worship in a different language; there has been a dramatic increase in the involvement of the lay faithful in the life of the church; papal travels and the communications explosion we have experienced have highlighted both the global presence of the church and the interdependence of people all over the world.
The fact is that the number of us who were around in those days grows ever smaller as the years go by. In rapidly increasing numbers, members of our faith community are able to speak of Vatican Council II only as an historic event and not as something that they anticipated with joy and lived through with great excitement. Such differences in perspective affect us all, and, often enough can be a source of tensions — even of disagreement. But, whenever we came along, we are all living in the same church and are called to active, informed, contributing participation in its mission to build up the kingdom of God.
My hope for this initiative of our Holy Father is that it will be an experience, centered in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, one of peace, growth and reconciliation for all of us — however any of us may need those gifts.
Peace to all.