Denver, Colo., Nov 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver says the end of the Year of Faith should encourage Catholics to continue to grow from an encounter with Christ and to share their faith with others.
“The Year of Faith was not a marketing campaign for Catholics to get excited about; it was a time to meet Jesus and his Church, to come to know and love Jesus and his Church more deeply. It was a time to grow in intimacy with Jesus, to encounter the Lord in your heart,” the archbishop said in a Nov. 21 pastoral letter to his archdiocese.
“Our lives are forever changed the more we fall in love with Jesus!” he said.
The archbishop said that Catholics should “courageously and joyfully” share their faith in Christ and tell others about Jesus, as St. Andrew told his brother St. Peter.
“From St. Peter's life, we can see that the experience of faith should lead us to witness to the truth, to Jesus himself, who is the truth.”
Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013 to renew the Catholic faithful and to help restore God’s presence in the world.
As the year comes to a close, Archbishop Aquila urged Catholics to continue to grow in their understanding, of faith and to make use of formation opportunities n the Denver archdiocese. He encouraged Catholics to study the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and “most especially” to take part in daily prayer with Sacred Scripture. He encouraged efforts to serve and encounter the poor, in the ministries and volunteer opportunities in the archdiocese.
Archbishop Aquila said that despite the unique challenges of contemporary culture, there is still “the longing for love” and the desire “to be united with God, who is love itself.”
The archbishop said the Year of Faith has been a “time of grace” in which the faith of many has been deepened. This is “vital” for the future “because the cultural context we live in is becoming increasingly dismissive of faith.”
Retired pontiff Benedict XVI called the year of faith because “Western culture has forgotten God,” the archbishop said.
Benedict announced the Year of Faith his October 2011 apostolic letter “Porta Fidei,” While there was previously a “unitary cultural matrix” that was broadly accepted, he explained, this is no longer the case “because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.” The faith risks being “extinguished” in “vast areas of the earth,” he warned.
Archbishop Aquila said that the present age is “historically unprecedented” because Western societies are trying to exist “without any reference to God or a deity of some kind.”
“In contemporary Western society, good and evil are being cast aside in favor of following passions and indulging desires. Each person is left to personally decide what is good and what is evil with no reference to any objective criteria,” the archbishop said.
He said the the loss of “the sense of community” is a factor in this change. This loss harms people’s image of God because the Trinity is “the perfect model of how to love unconditionally within families and in society at large.”
“Relationships become shallower and the desire for the true good of the other is set aside in favor of personal profit in this life. In families, the most basic cell of society, self-sacrifice for the sake of eternal reward is replaced with the temporary pleasures this life offers.”
The “explosion” in technology, especially in communications, is another factor in the new culture. While the Church can bring the Gospel to the far corners of the earth, “the sheer volume of messages and the convincing way that some of them are presented has created confusion about some of the most fundamental questions in life.”
The truth must now compete with “many destructive answers” to questions about the nature of humanity, freedom, happiness and truth.
Western culture also believes that Christianity “has been tried and found insufficient,” the archbishop said.
Responding to these challenges will not be easy, but can be “painful” and involve the cross.
Archbishop Aquila urged prayers for fortitude, because “our culture will challenge, reject and even hate us because of our faith in Jesus and his Church.”
And although hatred of God and mockery of people of faith is becoming acceptable, there are “people of good will who, for all of their imperfections, are just waiting to meet Christ.”
He urged Catholics to “move out of our comfort zones” and become “more evangelistic.”
“Everyone in the Archdiocese of Denver has an opportunity to encounter Jesus and grow in faith, even once the Year of Faith is over,” the archbishop said.
“Jesus, the one who is love, mercy and truth, stands ready to meet you, in prayer, in the sacraments and in the spiritually and materially poor. He desires to call you ‘friend.’”
“And once you have met him, the Holy Spirit will fill you with a joy that cannot be contained, that impels you to 'go and make disciples of all nations.'”
Denver, Colo., Nov 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Teresa Tomeo, author of the new book “God’s Bucket List,” says that she knows from her own life how “freeing” it is to put God’s priorities first.
“I always had my own bucket list. I had my own plan. But what I found was that was not necessarily aligned with God’s plan for my life,” she told CNA Nov. 21. “When I discovered God’s plan, it was a much better plan for me.”
The phrase “the bucket list” became popular after the 2007 movie of the same name about two elderly men dying of cancer who fulfill their dreams before they die.
Tomeo noticed that “everybody was talking about a ‘bucket list’ but nobody was mentioning God.” Her new book aims to help people make God a priority.
“The bottom line is putting God first. It truly is what the whole book is about, leading people to understand that God has got to be, not your co-pilot, but your pilot. They have to start keeping these practices seriously, these beautiful traditions we have in our faith as Catholics.”
Tomeo, a radio show host and columnist who appears frequently on the EWTN Global Catholic Network, recounts in her book what her life was like before she made God’s priorities her own.
She told CNA / EWTN News that she and her husband were married in the Church, but didn’t practice their faith.
“We were both very career-oriented, both very successful. We had all the trappings of what the world says equals happiness, and yet at the end of the day we were empty.”
“Our marriage was falling apart and I was getting disillusioned with the business I was in for many years. I was following my own bucket list instead of God’s and I ended up miserable and almost divorced.”
The loss of her job as a prominent Detroit TV news anchor made her re-evaluate.
“I was forced to look at myself and to look at what I had done with my life,” she said.
She learned that following God’s “bucket list” can “bring us closer to God everyday but also help us fulfill that calling and vocation and become intentional disciples,” she said.
Her book offers reflections on passages from the Bible and thoughts about life that she said will help others “discover God’s plan for their lives.” Drawing on her own experience, she recommends others learn to live with stillness, understanding and instruction. “Live in the mess,” she advises in her book’s chapter on suffering. “Live like you’re loved,” she writes.
Tomeo said her book is for everyone, not only Catholics.
“I’m really hoping that this is a crossover book, that it can reach out to someone in your family who has fallen away from the faith or to a friend who maybe hasn’t been to church in years,” she explained.
“Most people say they believe in God. I think people have to start getting serious about this,” she added.
She said “falling in love with God and putting him first” is the most important item on the “bucket list.”
“God’s Bucket List” is published by Image Books.
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2013 (CNA) - In his homily at Sunday Mass on the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis emphasized Jesus’ crucial place in creation, history, and the Church.
“The attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our works,” he preached to a crowded St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 24.
The many pilgrims who had come to celebrate the close of the Year of Faith listened attentively as he continued, “When this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.”
This historic Mass at the “crowning of the liturgical year” marked not only the conclusion of a year dedicated to rediscovering “the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our baptism.” In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis had the reliquary containing the bones of St. Peter brought out to the square.
Pope Francis stood clutching the bronze box holding the bones of the first Pope, his head bowed low as throngs of Christians proclaimed their faith in the Son of God made incarnate.
The Pope had also expressed his gratitude for the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches who were present at today’s Mass, saying, “the exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.”
Such a witness for Christ is the call of every Christian, since Jesus “is the center of all things.”
“In him, through him, and for him all things were created,” explained the pontiff.
But Jesus is not only divinely transcendent: he became human, caring “for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life.”
Reflecting on the Old Testament scriptures, Pope Francis noted that “in searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.”
“Christ, the descendant of King David, is the ‘brother’ around whom God’s people come together.”
Thus, “to him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives,” he encouraged.
“When Jesus is the center, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope,” just as he did to the “good thief” on the cross, who begged, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“Remember me. Jesus, remember me,” Pope Francis repeated. “Let us take a moment to repeat these words in the silence of our hearts,” he told the congregation.
“The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom!” the Pope exclaimed.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Francis distributed copies of his new apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” to 36 representatives of diverse groups in the Church, including clerics, catechists, families, religious, artists, and journalists.
He then thanked Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, and his collaborators for their work during the Year of Faith.
The pontiff led the congregation in the traditional Angelus Prayer, remembering in a special way those Christians around the world who are persecuted and suffering. “There are many!” he reminded those in attendance.
Prior to Mass, a special collection was taken up for those in the Philippines affected by the recent typhoon.