Articles : The Year of Faith Over...An End to a Life Well Lived?Posted on: 2014-01-26
Source: Revd. Fr. Martin 'Diipo Badejo
What About It?
The Year of Faith has come and has left its imprint on us and indeed calls for greater actions of continuity and seminal sustenance. Like many of the notable celebrations before it, it came with a call to action. Proclaimed by the Holy Father emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI on the 11th of October 2012, it was incidentally closed by another Holy Father Pope Francis. While still reaping the gains from the celebration of the Year of St. Paul (June 2008-June 2009) and the Year for Priests (2009-2010), the Year of Faith really opened us up with the zeal of St. Paul and the awareness that we are priestly people, to the need to go to the well again like the Samaritan woman (Porta Fidei 3), to rediscover anew the sweetness of the salt of faith and the brightness of the light of faith. Among other things, the celebration urged an approach of 'ad fontes' (literally meaning 'back to the sources'), 'summoning an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord' (Porta Fidei 6), calling us all to a deep reflection and further emphasis on the profession of the creed the celebration of the sacraments with well prepared liturgy. And as has been with the fact of history; the past justifying the future and the present confirming the past, the Year of Faith marked the fiftieth anniversary of the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council (1962-2012) and the twentieth anniversary of publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992-2012). The celebration of the Year of Faith has indeed showed us that we can truly combat the scare of spiritual desertification and doctrinal aversion if we stand up more consciously to our faith.
So what is New?
Evangelization being the direct accompanying action of faith took a great toll during the Year of Faith. There was a synod on 'The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith' which ran from the 7th to the 28th of October 2012. Despite being a necessary event on its own, it was closely tied to the Year of Faith. In its final message, the Synod urged everyone everywhere to feel 'the need to revive a faith that risks eclipse in cultural contexts that hinders its taking root in persons and its presence in society.' And in his Apostolic Exhortation to close the Year of Faith, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis invited 'all Christians everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ or at least an openness to letting him encounter them' (EG 3). Further expressing the need to go out and evangelize, he says, 'life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others' (EG 10). In other words, we should not just live in the comfort of the name Christian, but take the real step of the action of action evangelization.
Do You Still Doubt?
With notable interruptions, which has further strengthened the fact that the Church is established by Christ and even though on the turbulent seas of life (see Year of Faith Logo), the victory of the Cross and the power of the Holy Eucharist urges her on in strength, we can look back in confidence and forward with courage. The news came in like a bolt from the blues Pope Benedict XVI on the 11th of February 2013, when the erstwhile Holy Father, a man of faith and courage, announced his resignation from the Petrine office. Of course there were insinuations and counter insinuations. I remember putting these words in the Sunday bulletin of the St. Thomas More Chaplaincy Ogbomoso, (Nigeria) where I was working at the time, '....Yes. According to the Code of Canon Law (1983), 332 §2, a Pope can resign from his office provided it is freely done and manifested. And in his own words, Pope Benedict XVI said, 'after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry...in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by the questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and to proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me...' These are the words of the Pope himself. Dear friends let us discount whatever negative insinuations we might come across, ranging from the media to individuals. The Church belongs to the Lord and not the Pope. And Jesus never resigns neither does the Holy Spirit go on break. The Church continues even stronger than before. The action of the Pope arises from good conscience and clear sightedness. Let us keep praying for the Church. Read more from www.zenit.org/www.vatican.va.... 'Of course people came in droves to ask questions and some even began to express doubt with the continuity of the Church's central accessibility as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This for me was one situation which if it happened in other climes would indeed bring untold destruction. Yet the Church marched on. Just a bit over a month after, the Lord gifted his church with another grace, the new Pope Francis whose simplicity has stunned the world. Recently proclaimed as the Times man of the year, the Lord has simply confirmed again that the Church is not based on human know-how (as many charlatans have chosen to claim), but on his strength. Now we bask in the joys of the successful resignation of the emeritus Pope after his good service to the Lord and the election of a new Pope. We must note that all these did not just happen by chance during the Year of Faith. It is the Spirit of God working in his Church and asking us all to work along with him.
While attesting to the very many activities held for the year from the levels of outstations, parishes, deaneries, diocese, ecclesiastical provinces, national levels and even internationally, there is one I cannot but point to. It had a worldwide response. It united us all accurately. It proved many negative bookmakers wrong. It claimed more souls for Jesus even as we sat/knelt at his feet. It averted a worldwide breakdown of law and order. Your guess is as good as mine. It is the worldwide Solemn Eucharistic Adoration on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (June 2, 2013). Apart from the fact that the office for the Year of Faith took good records, giving details of the activity (which Oyo Diocese and Idah Diocese, Nigeria, were clearly reported to have done, see www.annusfidei.va/adorazioni), it is worthwhile to know that we cannot move out to bring people to faith, without first sitting at the feet of the Lord to learn what to do and how to do it.
Another helpful initiative I wish to recall is the 'Read the Catechism in a Year' made available at www.flocknote.com. It picked themes from the Catechism each day of the Year of Faith and shared it freely via the internet helping to meet the specific request of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to study the Catechism for the Year of Faith. While recalling the success of the effort, it was noted that over 100,000 people prayed and studied together in this simple way. I am sure many of them are youths. I am happy to have been a part of that community, because it not only helped me to learn the faith more, it confirmed my firm belief in the fact that the Church can spread more easily if we worked harder without bothering who gets the credit. Now, Matthew Warner, the founder of the initiative has decided to continue with further daily reflections still on the Catechism and more on the Gospel. I suggest as many of us as can, should join this community of joy. Just as that of the Year of Faith has snowballed into such a big community for Christ, we can continue to permeate our world with the Good News as we spread. (Just see www.flocknote.com/gospel and join)
What From Hence?
Shall we then say that the Year of Faith is over? Limited to the dating, yes it is over. However it has created a central impact which expects the ripples to continue. As each of us asks himself, 'what am I taking out of the Year of Faith as a lesson and point for action?' some expectations are obvious.
1. The most basic should be that the parish as a certain (particular) community of the Christian faithful should 'in all its activities...encourage and train its members to be evangelizers' (EG 28). This can be done within all age groups, children, youth and adults. No age group can be discounted anymore in this age of communication wideness. My experience in the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Nigeria where you find people even at the grassroots (outstations) taking precise actions of faith through evangelization and even active relations with non Christians in the sense of Inter Religious Dialogue, has taught me that the faith can be made accessible to all (see www.catholicdioceseoyo.org).
2. The various families should bring the same fervent attitude into the larger family of the parish, the diocese and the Church at large. When children are given the impetus they have a way of influencing each other, even as early as age four. Need we talk about how the youth can use the wide range of communication media at our disposal to spread the faith? Let the mothers and fathers create a faith friendly atmosphere in the family, far from a fundamentalist approach, yet firm and focused on the faith Jesus taught us through the apostles.
3. Priests have a lot to do to make sure that the post Year of Faith activities enliven the faith not just in their own parishes, but to be committed to create a drive of faith; to push the fire of faith into any place they find themselves. Just as Pope Francis during the Creed at the closing Mass of the Year of Faith (24th November 2013) carried the relics of St. Peter in veneration of the fathers of our ancient faith, let us all be committed to a daily carrying of the faith, learning of the faith and handing on the faith to others.
4. I wish to recommend that the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis to close the Year of Faith, Evangelii Gaudium be read and discussed in parishes, among the groups in our parishes, outstations, basic Christian communities and at every level possible. Pastoral plans for dioceses and parishes for 2014 should take a serious look into evangelization.
Even amidst the distractions...
Even amidst the distractions of the media misrepresenting the Pope, amidst the satirical uproars against the Church and against reasonable decisions on human existence, we can continue to feel the pulse of faith. We can continue to shore up our beams of joy. We can continue to keep our future in heaven safe from here. We shall continue to march on with strength, till we find ourselves at the feet of him whose life in us never comes to an end, because we have held his eternity in our hearts through faith in him.
Fr. Badejo from the Catholic Diocese of Oyo Nigeria is a post graduate student in Pastoral Theology at the Facolta Teologica, Milan Italy.
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