October 11, 2012, marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II. Pope Benedict XVI declared a "Year of Faith" extending from October 11, 2012 until November, 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King. It also marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
"The 'door of faith' (Acts 14:27) is always open for us," the Pope said. For members of the Legion of Mary, every year is a year of faith; every year since 1921 (even prior to the Vatican Council) was a year of "the new evangelization," as Bishop Estévez remarked at our congress.
Every week we try to open that "door of faith" for others as well as for ourselves.
As members of this great evangelical organization, how did we mark this "Year of Faith"? Let us reflect on this crucial question and come up with innovative ways to enhance our apostolates.
Below we reproduce part of the guidelines from the Sacred Congregation for this commendation as it applies to local churches and apostolic organizations. Every Legionary should begin by studying those two important books, "The Documents of Vatican II" and "Catechism of the Catholic Church." Then incorporate them in our weekly reading assignments and discussions at our meetings. Of course, follow the guidance of your diocese, parish and spiritual directors.
[Excerpts From CNA/EWTN News for purpose of review] A summary of the guideline document, which was produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine:
The introduction to the guidelines explains that the Year of Faith is "intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord, capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the door of faith."
The document from the Vatican's doctrinal congregation offers a sketch of what should take place at every level of the Church during the Year of Faith.
At the universal level, the Pope will engage in various events, including the solemn opening of the Year of Faith, the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil. There will also be "various ecumenical initiatives" aimed at "the restoration of unity among all Christians," including "a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ."
Bishops' conferences will focus on increasing the "quality of catechesis." Some of the efforts in this area will involve examining "local catechisms and various catechetical supplements in use in the particular Churches," in order "to ensure their complete conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church."
The Vatican body also hopes that the bishops' conferences will use the media to evangelize, such as "television and radio transmissions, films and publications focusing on the faith, its principles and content."
At the level of dioceses, the Year of Faith is expected to provide an occasion for "renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason," among both the academic and artistic communities. It should also be a year for "penitential celebrations" in which Catholics can "ask for God's forgiveness, especially for sins against faith."
In local parishes, the Vatican would like to see a focus on the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, since in it the "mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened."
Religious institutes, new communities and ecclesial movements are also expected to take their lead in celebrating the Year from the pastoral guidelines.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith hopes that the Year of Faith will make the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism "more widely and deeply known" throughout the Church.
"From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has worked decisively for a correct understanding of the Council," says the document, "rejecting as erroneous the so-called 'hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture' and promoting what he himself has termed 'the 'hermeneutic of reform,' of renewal in continuity.'"
The Vatican's doctrinal congregation says that their pastoral recommendations are aimed at helping people encounter Christ and grow in their understanding of the Catholic faith. At the same time, it adds, the guidelines are not meant to rule out "other initiatives which the Holy Spirit will inspire among Pastors and faithful in various parts of the world."
SOME SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS AT THE DIOCESAN LEVEL:
- It is hoped that each particular Church will celebrate the opening and the solemn conclusion of the Year of Faith.
- Organize a study day in each diocese on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for priests, consecrated persons and catechists.
- Organize catechetical events, especially for young people and those seeking the meaning of life, helping them to discover the beauty of ecclesial faith.
- Review the reception of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the life and mission of dioceses, particularly in the realm of catechesis.
- Organize penitential celebrations in which all can ask for God's forgiveness, especially for sins against faith.
- Renew creative dialogue between faith and reason in the academic and artistic communities, through symposia, meetings and days of study.
- Promote encounters with non-believers who sincerely search for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world.
SOME GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARISHES AND ORGANIZATIONS
- All of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter, "Porta fidei".
- Intensifying the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, in which the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness.
- All should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and guide groups of faithful towards a deeper common understanding thereof.
- Parishes can help to distribute the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and other resources appropriate for families - the primary setting for the transmission of the faith - for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmation and Marriage.
- Promote missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace, to help the faithful rediscover the gift of baptismal faith and the task of giving witness.
- Members of (organizations) are asked to work towards the new evangelization, each according to their proper charism.
- Contemplative communities should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God, and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.
- Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives, through the contribution of their proper charism.
- All of the faithful should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity to their brothers and sisters of other religions, believers and non-believers. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission towards those with whom they live and work.