At certain times in the history of the Church, popes have called upon the faithful to dedicate themselves to deepening their understanding of a particular aspect of the faith. In 1967, Pope Paul VI announced a Year of Faith commemorating the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul. The 1967 Year of Faith called upon the Church to recall the supreme act of witness by these two saints so that their martyrdom might inspire the present day Church to collectively and individually make a sincere profession of faith.
The upcoming Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The pope has described this conversion as opening the “door of faith” (see Acts 14:27). The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.
2. Why is the Year of Faith this year?
With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the Year of Faith will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11, the first day of the Year of Faith, is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.
3. The Year of Faith begins in October 2012 with a Synod on New Evangelization. What is a synod?
A synod of bishops is a gathering of bishops, selected from different areas of the world, who meet with the pope to discuss questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world. This meeting of bishops helps to foster a closer unity between the bishops and the pope, and provides counsel to the pope. Pope Benedict XVI has situated the Synod on the New Evangelization (October 7-28) at the beginning of the Year of Faith (October 11).
4. How are Year of Faith and New Evangelization linked?
The New Evangelization is a call to each Catholic to deepen his or her own faith, have confidence in the Gospel, and possess a willingness to share the Gospel. The New Evangelization is first and foremost a personal encounter with Jesus Christ; it is an invitation to deepen one’s relationship with Christ. It is also a call to each person to share his or her faith with others. The Year of Faith, just like the New Evangelization, calls Catholics to conversion in order to deepen their relationship with Christ and to share it with others.
5. How does the Year of Faith affect the average Catholic?
Every baptized Catholic is called through baptism to be a disciple of Christ and proclaim the Gospel. The Year of Faith is an opportunity for each and every Catholic to renew their baptismal call by living out the everyday moments of their lives with faith, hope and love. This everyday witness is necessary for proclaiming the Gospel to family, friends, neighbors and society. In order to witness to the Gospel, Catholics must be strengthened through celebrating weekly Sunday Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Pastors are encouraged to provide their parishioners with opportunities to deepen their faith during the Year of Faith through retreats, special liturgies, Bible studies, service opportunities and formation sessions on the catechism and sacraments.
6. What are some key resources for the Year of Faith?
Catholics wishing to deepen their faith during the Year of Faith should start by exploring the Evangelization and Catechesis section of the USCCB website. Numerous catechetical resources, prayers and other resources have been prepared for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization that can be viewed and downloaded for free. Catholics should also consider studying the documents of Vatican II and the catechism. Another resource is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which takes the teachings of the catechism and shares them within a uniquely American context and highlights American Catholic saints and role models. Catholics can also talk to their pastors and other parish leaders to learn about what activities and opportunities will be taking place within their communities. Most importantly, Catholics seeking to deepen their faith should pray daily, study Scripture and celebrate weekly Sunday Mass.