Your Guide to Celebrating the Year of Faith
What is the Year of Faith? Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith in his recent Apostlic Letter Porta fidei. It officially began on 11 October 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, and ends on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
This Year of Faith is an opportunity for us to understand the gift of our faith, encounter Christ more deeply, and discover the joy of living and practicing our faith more fully. So, here are ten suggestions you can do this Year. You can also read more at the official Vatican and US Bishops' Conference Year of Faith websites. There is an official Year of Faith logo but I really prefer the image we are using on our Aquinas and More exclusive Year of Faith Holy Cards.
Because the Year of Faith coincided with the anniversary of beginning of Vatican II, why not take the time to read and study the Vatican II documents? You can go directly to the key texts created at the Council in “Vatican II Essential Texts”.
The Year of Faith date also coincided with the anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church twenty years ago, by Pope John Paul II. During this year, read it. Yes, the whole thing. Yes, it’s big and thick. But it’s our faith! The Catechism is divided into four sections so you can kind of pace yourself mentally. You can even get the Compendium -- it’s a study guide for the Catechism and includes Q & A and great pictures. If your more computer-savvy you might want to participate in the daily Catechism emails from Flocknote. They'll help you stay on track to reading the whole Catechism of the Catholic Church in one year.
One of the three pillars of our faith, along with fasting and almsgiving. Make specific prayer goals, such as: pray the rosary daily; try to learn mental prayer; pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday; incorporate Novenas into your prayer and liturgical life; make a Morning Offering; pray the Angelus; pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet; pray with your children every day. You don’t have to do them all, but do pick a few that appeal to you.
Have you ever tried to synchronize your eating with the liturgical calendar? You could! We have “Feast Days” for exactly that -- celebrating and feasting! Try feasting on the Major Feast Days, (Solemnities, etc) and eating normally otherwise. But of course, don’t forget Fasting -- try devoting each Friday to fasting and abstinence. Include Ember Days in your yearly calendar. Or for a real challenge, adopt the Byzantine Catholic liturgical fast. They have four fasting periods during the year, and specific dietary rules.
Do you tithe? It is not mandatory to tithe to the Catholic Church. Perhaps you might want to consider doing so, or at least a fixed amount each week different from what you normally do. Or select a few Catholic organizations or charities that you do not typically support monetarily, and make an effort to do so this year.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. Do you ever spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament? Silence. Prayer, Adoration. Draw from the well-spring and give yourself over to God in this ancient and holy way. Make a point to do it more often this year. Find a parish with a 24 hour Adoration chapel if possible and sign up for one hour a week. Or just stop by your local parish any time during the day and...sit.
If you don’t attend Mass regularly, why not make it a point to do so this year. Up the ante --try adding Daily Mass into your routine if your local parish offers it. You don’t have to do it every day -- start with once a week, or maybe on Saturdays. Or go for First Fridays, perhaps. Consider doing reading on the topic of Mass, trying to deepen your understanding of this Holy Mystery.
You can try the same approach with Confession -- go more frequently. Are you a few-times-a-year person? Aim for once a month. Go once a month? Try every two weeks. Make a Daily Examination of Conscience at bedtime. If you have children, be sure to bring them too in order to make a good example for them. Also, consider encouraging someone who has been away from the Church for a long time to go with you to Confession. You may just bring someone back!
In conjunction with going to confession, the Church has announced that a plenary indulgence is available for those fulfilling the following conditions:
(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.
(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.
(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.
(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form."
If you don't understand what indulgences are, we recommend reading the Primer on Indulgences at Catholic.com.
How often do you think about the Works of Mercy? There are two kinds: spiritual and temporal. And there are seven types of each one. Get acquainted with them. Try incorporating one monthly project in your home that reflects a corporal work of mercy. Meditate on the spiritual works. Put your faith into action.
How often do you read spiritual works? Do you read your Bible -- Daily? Weekly? Ever? Consider getting started -- even as little as 5 minutes a day at the start or end of the day is better than nothing! How about the Lives of the Saints? You can read the Saint of the Day, every day, for the next year. Be inspired by those who were became Saints, trusting in God and doing His Will. Or perhaps you’ll consider praying the “Liturgy of the Hours”, also known as “Divine Office” It is the ancient prayer of the People of God.
According to a Papal address to the Roman Curia Pope Benedict XVI wanted the Year of Faith, which runs from Oct. 11, 2012, to Nov. 24, 2013, to help the church focus its attention on "Jesus Christ and the beauty of having faith in him,". The year is meant 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". Use these ten suggestions to participate more fully in this Year of Faith!