The leader of the U.S. bishops' evangelization committee has offered suggestions on ways for the faithful to take part in the upcoming Year of Faith through sacramental participation, prayer and action.
The Year of Faith offers an opportunity for “a renewal of faith and evangelization for the whole Church,” said Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
On Sept. 24, Bishop Ricken issued recommendations on ways for Catholics to live the Year of Faith, which begins on Oct. 11 and runs through Nov. 24, 2013.
Announced by Pope Benedict XVI in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the upcoming year is intended to “strengthen the faith of Catholics and draw the world to faith by their example.”
Among Bishop Ricken’s suggestions – which were founded upon the guidelines issued by Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – was regular participation in the Mass.
“The Year of Faith is meant to promote the personal encounter with Jesus,” he said. “This occurs most immediately in the Eucharist.”
He explained that regular Mass attendance can strengthen one’s faith “through the Scriptures, the Creed, other prayers, sacred music, the homily, receiving Communion and being part of a faith community.”
In addition to simply attending Mass themselves, the faithful can also invite their friends to Mass, the bishop added, explaining that although the Year of Faith has a global focus, “real change occurs at the local level.”
“A personal invitation can make all the difference to someone who has drifted from the faith or feels alienated from the Church,” he said.
Furthermore, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can play an important role in spiritual growth, Bishop Ricken added.
“Confession urges people to turn back to God, express sorrow for falling short and open their lives to the power of God’s healing grace,” he said. “It forgives the injuries of the past and provides strength for the future.”
The bishop also encouraged Catholics to learn about the saints, whose witness offers us hope and teaches us how to live as Christians. These holy men and women were sinners who continually strove to grow in their relationship with God, he said, and they give us an example of service through ministry, charity, prayer and everyday life.
Bishop Ricken encouraged Catholics to read the Bible every day during the Year of Faith in order to “become more attuned to the Word of God” and to study the Catechism to deepen their understanding of the Church’s “beliefs, moral teachings, prayer and sacraments.”
He also recommended reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which “ushered in a great renewal of the Church.”
The council affected the celebration of the Mass, the laity’s role and the Church’s understanding of itself and those of other faiths, he said, adding that Catholics must understand the council in order to “continue this renewal.”
In addition to prayer and study, the bishop emphasized, the foundational Church teachings “must translate into action.”
He suggested participation at the parish level, in roles such as lector, liturgical musician or catechist, to contribute to the community. He also recommended donations to charity and volunteering to aid those in need.
“This means to personally encounter Christ in the poor, marginalized and vulnerable,” he explained. “Helping others brings Catholics face-to-face with Christ and creates an example for the rest of the world.”
Finally, Bishop Ricken encouraged Catholics to work in their daily lives to adhere to the Beatitudes, which offer an example of virtue and “a rich blueprint for Christian living.”
“It’s precisely the example of lived faith needed to draw people to the Church in the year ahead,” he said.
Tags: Year of Faith