So what is the Year of Faith?
One of my students asked the unexpected question: Isn't every year a year of faith in the eyes of the Catholic Church?
Perhaps it's better to use Pope Benedict's words from his recent Motu Proprio Porta Fidei - a personal statement that announced the Year of Faith. He said we should look at faith as a "lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world."
So why now? It's no coincidence that the Year of Faith starts on October 11 - the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The word renewal comes to mind. In a sense, the Holy Father is inviting Catholics to take their faith and encounter with Christ to another level - to deepen and develop it. Baptism and Confirmation set us on the path but it's a long journey with downs as well as ups, doubts and challenges as well as revelation and joy. One thing's certain - Christ is the lifelong companion Pope Benedict refers to and this is a 12-month opportunity to get closer to Him.
Three months after the announcement and a full nine months before the Year of Faith itself, what is the Church doing to encourage the faithful and help us prepare? In Rome, on January 6th, Cardinal William Levada, President of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a number of pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith.
The guidance advocates meetings and gatherings, promotes pilgrimages to the Holy Land, encourages a deeper devotion to Mary and asks Catholics to engage closely with the teachings, homilies and addresses of the Holy Father. More specifically, the Congregation provides dioceses and parishes with ideas to get the most out of what is sure to be a grace-filled Year.
Cardinal Levada also notes that World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, falls during the year - July 2013 - and will offer the opportunity for young Catholic pilgrims "to experience the joy which comes from faith in the Lord Jesus and communion with the Holy Father, in the greater family of the Church."