Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I 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.”
It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.
Porta Fidei 2
Reflection – I started blogging my way through this document last week, in preparation for the Year of Faith announced by the Holy Father to begin this October, marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
In this 2nd paragraph we start to see why the Pope has done such a thing. What is this ‘Year of Faith’? Isn’t every year a year of faith? What is he thinking?
Every year is, indeed, meant to be a year of faith… but is it? For how many people has faith become a remote reality. Even for people in the church faith can become pretty tenuous, pretty abstract or shaky. Religion all too often becomes something we do for an hour on Sunday. Our lives are lived… elsewhere.
The Pope is calling us to get back to basics, it seems to me. What is life about? What is the point, the purpose, the goal, the source, the substance of life? Is it Christ and our friendship with him? Or is it something else? That something else needn’t be something wicked and dissolute, like hedonism or power or unbridled pursuit of wealth. It can be normal human goods, like friendship and family, peace and security, inner well being. All things that are good, but are not, if we live for them, a matter of living by faith.
We are made for God, every last one of us. Made for communion with Him, and out of that, to be in communion with our family and friends, to have peace and security and inner well being and a host of other secondary goods. But first things first.
The Pope makes a very good point when he says that the Church has far too often presumed the faith and then focused Her energies on social justice or other things consequent upon faith. I am reminded vividly of a conversation a number of years ago with my niece who had gone through a full twelve years of Catholic schools and told me that nobody, in twelve years, ever actually told them anything the Catholic Church taught, but would refer to it as if they already knew it.
How a school child is supposed to show up in the school system already knowing their catechism is beyond me… but that seems to be a typical experience. And then the parishes assume the children are getting it in the schools, and the parents assume the same, or that the parish is taking care of it… and as a result no one knows nothin’ about nothin’. In Madonna House we see wonderful young adults coming here, men and women full of good will and a hunger and enthusiasm for God… and often they know very little indeed of basic catechetical matters.
Anyhow, that seems to be the situation the Pope is calling for us to address in this year of faith. Don’t presume that anyone knows anything anymore! And get back, in our parishes, our schools, and around our family dinner tables, to the basics. What is life about? Who are you, who is God, who is Jesus? What has God done in our midst, and what does this mean for how we are to live our lives? Find out, or if you already know these basic truths, deepen your knowledge of them, examine your heart as to how you are living by them, and above all, pass them on to others.