Rediscovering, Knowing, Living our Faith
In his Wednesday audience address of October 10, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI declared: "The Second Vatican Council is a strong appeal to us to rediscover every day the beauty of our faith, to know it deeply for a more intense relationship with the Lord, in order to live our Christian vocation to the full." How can we Catholics rediscover the beauty of our faith, intensify our relationship with Our Lord, and more fully live out our Christian vocation during this Year of Faith? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Read, study and meditate on the Faith. I would especially recommend Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), the charter document for this Holy Year; The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Benedict XVI called "an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council"; the documents of Vatican II, particularly the four Constitutions; the papal encyclicals of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and especially Pope Francis' new encyclical on faith; the Bible; the Early Church Fathers; the lives of the Saints; Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI; and The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.
2. Get the special plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith if you haven't yet done so. On May 10, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI solemnly decreed that this indulgence will be granted to all the faithful who fulfill certain prescribed conditions in addition to the usual conditions of going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. The special conditions for obtaining this particular indulgence may be found on the official Year of Faith website.
3. Receive the Sacraments frequently. The sacraments are channels of grace through which we receive the strength necessary to follow Christ faithfully in our everyday lives. We should especially receive the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist often to be cleansed of our sins and spiritually nourished for the journey of faith.
4. Spend more time in prayer. Christ says, "'Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me'" (Jn. 15:4), and "'without me you can do nothing'" (Jn. 15:5). When Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked how she was able to accomplish so much, she replied simply, "I pray." If faith is an encounter with Christ and a loving personal relationship with Him, prayer is the heart and soul of that relationship. The more time we spend in prayer, the more closely united with Christ we will be, the deeper our faith will become, and the more fruit we will bear in the Lord's vineyard. Scripture says, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17). Simple daily prayers, such as morning and evening prayers and grace before and after meals, are important to nourish our Christian life. The Church also recommends the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily rosary; the latter is an excellent method of drawing closer to Christ through meditation on the mysteries of his life in union with Our Blessed Mother Mary, the perfect follower of Christ and the one through whom all graces come to us. Above all, during this Year of Faith we should enter more deeply into the Sacred Liturgy, "the great prayer of the Church." Lex orandi, lex credendi: "As we pray, so we believe."
5. Share the faith with others. The priceless gift of faith we have been given is not meant to be selfishly hoarded within ourselves, but rather to be freely shared with others. "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Mt. 10:8). We can all find little opportunities in our everyday lives to witness Christ and evangelize others through word and example. The more we take advantage of these opportunities, the more our faith will grow and the stronger it will become. In his Message for the 1992 World Youth Day, Blessed John Paul II declared:
All baptized persons are called by Christ to become his apostles in their own personal situation and in the world: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn. 20:21). Through his Church Christ entrusts you with the fundamental mission of sharing with others the gift of salvation. He invites you to participate in building his kingdom. He chooses you, in spite of the personal limitations everyone has, because he loves you and believes in you. This unconditional love of Christ should be the very soul of your apostolic work, in accord with the words of St. Paul, "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor. 5:14).
Being disciples of Christ is not a private matter. On the contrary, the gift of faith must be shared with others. For this reason the same apostle writes: "If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!" (1 Cor 9:16). Moreover, do not forget that faith is strengthened and grows precisely when it is given to others.
Perhaps no better summary of the Christian life can be found than that contained in Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: "I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:1-6).
And perhaps no better prayer for this Year of Faith can be said than that of Benedict XVI: "May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the whole Church, help us to achieve and to bring to completion what the Council Fathers, motivated by the Holy Spirit, pondered in their hearts: the desire that all might know the Gospel and encounter the Lord Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life."