Pope Benedict XVI declared that a Year of Faith began on October 11, 2012. It will conclude with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on November 24, 2013.
Why is this Year of Faith so important for us at this time in history? Here are a few of my observations:
- On average, approximately three-fourths of Catholics in our area are not attending Mass weekly.
- The number of Catholics frequenting the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) is sporadic at best—usually concentrated most around the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter.
- Many young Catholics are following a fad of destination weddings (removed from any association with the Church)—not realizing the need for proper preparation and the sacredness of the marital covenant / sacrament about to be made. This “wedding” frequently follows a period of co-habitation.
- Too often individual Catholics are ignorant of some basic teachings and practices of our faith: the sacraments of the Church, various standard prayers, why we genuflect, why we use holy water, why we say “Amen,” etc.
- The remarks that I’ve heard spoken to me can be quite revealing: “I didn’t know that the Eucharist is really Jesus’ Body and Blood” (and not just some symbolic action). “I didn’t have my children baptized. We were going to let them choose for themselves which religion to believe once they grew older.” “I can confess my sins directly to God; I don’t need to go to a priest.” “Nobody is going to tell me how I can or cannot live my faith. That’s my business.” “The Church is sadly wrong on its teaching on human sexuality.” “My truth doesn’t agree with your truth.” “You mean sex before marriage is a sin!”
- The secular media has done a great job undermining the teachings of the Church. This is often accomplished by accentuating the sins of various priests / bishops—as if to paint all priests / bishops as untrustworthy (or perhaps hypocritical) and all Church teaching as out of touch, irrelevant or, at least, suspect.
- Various Catholics readily and more boldly dissent from Church teaching (birth control, "pro-choice," gay “marriage,” etc.)
With all of this being said, the heart of the matter is that faith is ultimately about a personal relationship with the Risen Christ. It is important that we know about our Catholic faith and its teachings, but it is more essential that we first know Jesus in an intimate, loving relationship. This relationship begins by a prayer life—talking to Jesus daily. It is fostered by reading about Him in the Sacred Scriptures and by receiving His Body and Blood frequently in the Holy Eucharist. It grows even deeper by learning about and understanding His Mystical Body, the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have encouraged a “New Evangelization” where Catholics can grow in their faith, witness to it and spread it to others. There is an emphasis on The Catechism of the Catholic Church as an invaluable tool to better knowing the content of our faith.
Sadly, it seems that each generation of Catholics appears to know less and less about the Catholic faith and its practice. Even more sad is the number of people who do not know Jesus—or at least live in such a manner that His teaching and His call to conversion go unheeded.
Fr. Ed Namiotka