I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on
11 October 2012,
the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it
will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date
of 11 October 2012 also
marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the
Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul
II, with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the
faith… Moreover, the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that
I have convoked for October 2012 is “The New Evangelization for the
Transmission of the Christian Faith”. This will be a good opportunity to usher
the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the
It is not the first time that the Church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith. My venerable Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul on the 19th centenary of their supreme act of witness…. The great upheavals of that year made even more evident the need for a celebration of this kind. It concluded with the Credo of the People of God, intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past.
Porta Fidei 4
Reflection – Mark your calendars! The Year of Faith is coming—what are YOU going to do about it?
These ‘years’ of the Church, of which there have been quite a few over the last decade or so, are interesting creatures. Remember the ‘year of
(2008) or the ‘year of prayer for priests’ (2009?) or the ‘year of the
Eucharist’ (2006)? What is the Church doing when it pronounces these years, and
what are we supposed to do about them? St. Paul
Well, the document Porta Fidei which I’m going through paragraph at a time will answer what the Church is doing. It is doing what it always does, or at least tries to do. It is calling us to conversion and to deepening of our commitment to Christ. Whether it is by delving into the apostolic spirit of
the gift par excellence of the Eucharist, or praying for us priests to
become the saints we’re supposed to be, these years are a vehicle to communally
plunge deeper into the mystery of Christ and the faith. St. Paul
And so it is with this year of faith. In timing it to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism, it seems to me that Pope Benedict is making a very basic point that needs to be made. Namely, the essential unity and necessary connection between a living, vibrant, apostolic, missionary faith and an adherence to the deposit of faith which takes concrete form in the doctrines of the Church.
Too often in the past 50 years we have disconnected these two or even opposed them. ‘Away with all the formulas, creeds, dogmas, and rules! Vatican II called us to a living relationship with Christ!’ This is a common attitude, especially among Catholics of a certain age (cough-Boomers-cough). (Incidentally I am precisely one year too young to qualify as a Boomer and so can adopt a Gen-X pose of slacker hipsterdom and ironic cool.)
Anyhow, enough inter-generational politics…
The Pope makes the point, by linking Vatican II and the Catechism, that without content, without doctrine, without a concrete binding dogmatic core, the living relationship with Christ becomes a mere abstraction. Christ becomes a projection of our own egos and ids, our own devices and desires. Only when we are bound to the Church’s teaching do we break out of this and enter into a true living relationship with the True Christ.
The Church in its teaching office plays, then, a necessary role in bringing us to Christ. Not the Christ of our imagining, not the Christ of our making, but simply Christ. And She does this, not exclusively, but certainly by her teaching office which is encapsulated in the Catechism. And because we enter through this into a real relationship with the real Christ, we can go forth into the world with apostolic courage and a deep concern for the needs and cares of our time.