Today, October 11, is the official launch of the Year of Faith. This date is significant because it's the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a fitting date for the Year of Faith, because the Second Vatican council was the initial spark of the New Evangelization with its encyclical Lumen Gentium (Latin for "Light of the Nations") and the Catechism a key teaching resource for this New Evangelization. The Year of Faith is a special time the Holy Father has designated for the faithful to grow in deeper conversion to Christ, which involves being further enriched in the Faith.
The Importance of the Year of Faith
We are all probably intimately aware that the Christian Faith is in decline in the Western world. The Faith that once strongly under-girded our politics, our science, and our morality is now becoming a thing of the past. Faith separated from politics has an ugly past of intolerant secularism that eventually leads to totalitarianism. We can already presently see how Faith separated from morality results in human desire replacing the natural law. Faith separated from science has an ugly future of human eugenics.
With this disturbing picture, we can now understand why the Holy Father designated an entire year devoted to increasing our faith. The Apostolic letter which announced the Year of Faith is Porta Fidei meaning "Door of Faith". In this document the Holy Father gives his reasons for announcing the Year of Faith as "a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world." This Year of Faith is meant to "arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope."
So, what practical things can you do to answer this call from the Holy Father?
1) Participation in the Church's Liturgical Year
Tools: The Magnificat Magazine, Roman Missal, and Catholic Bible
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Liturgical Year is "The celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord's birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a 'year of the Lord's grace'. Thus the cycle of the liturgical year and the great feasts constitute the basic rhythm of the Christian's life of prayer, with its focal point at Easter" (§1168).
When you participate with the Church in the liturgical year, you participate in the life of the Church as it relives and celebrates the great Christian mysteries. Being connected to the liturgy is a great way to integrate your Christian faith into your daily life. One of the main ways that you can participate in the Church's liturgical year is by following the daily Mass readings on your own, regardless of whether you attend daily Mass. The daily readings are selected from the Catholic Bible according to the Church's liturgical year, and if you follow the readings each day you will notice the "movement" of sorrow to joy, anticipation to fulfillment, etc. as we move from Advent to Christmas and Lent to Easter. The main tools for doing this are the popular Magnificat Magazine (which also had a special Year of Faith edition), and more traditionally the Daily Roman Missal and the Catholic Bible.
2) Learn more about Your Christian Faith
Tools: Year of Faith Bible studies
In order to combat the increased secularization for which the Holy Father announced the Year of Faith, it's important that the lay faithful take every opportunity to equip themselves to combat this secularization in their own hearts, in their own families, in their own parishes, and in their own places of work. This requires, at least in part, a deeper intellectual understanding of the Christians Faith. Catholic Bible studies will enrich your faith and help you to understand better the Church's liturgical year mentioned above. Two easy tools for this are new Catholic books out now just for the Year of Faith. These are The Year of Faith: A Bible Study guide for Catholics by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, and a daily reflection book called A Year with the Bible: Scriptural Wisdom for Daily Living by Patrick Madrid. These two Catholic books are excellent resources for a day to day companion to help you dig into the Catholic Bible a little bit each day. There are also more involved Bible studies available, for example The Bible Timeline DVD series by Jeff Cavins that takes you through the entire Catholic Bible.
Tools: Catholic Apologetics books
The Holy Father knows that announcing the Year of Faith will result in the Gospel being proclaimed to the world, because as believers grow in deeper conversion to Christ there is a natural radiating of the Gospel that will take place from the hearts of believers. People around you will notice the fruit of the Spirit displayed inyour life. As St. Francis of Assisi says, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." Now for those times when words are necessary (for example when people start asking you questions about your Catholic Faith) you may need some resources to help you respond. Catholic Apologetics books are a great resource to help you do this. Some of the best Catholic apologists to read are Peter Kreeft, Patrick Madrid, Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and Dave Armstrong. All of these Catholic authors write in an accessible way, and reading their defense of the Catholic faith on a variety of contentious topics will undoubtedly make you beam with love for your Church.
Hopefully this article will help guide you as you look for ways to make the most of the Year of Faith. I recommend keeping a prayer journal so that you can look back and realize how much you've grown and changed over the year!