This special message comes to us from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, the Archbishop of Ottawa. His letter coincides with today's feast, the Triumph of the Cross.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. To commemorate this Golden Anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a special letter, with the title “Porta fidei” or “The Door of Faith.” He called for a celebratory “Year of Faith” that will last thirteen months.
This Year of Faith will begin on October 11, 2012, the actual anniversary of the opening of the ecumenical [that is, “world-wide”] council. That evening, we will have a special prayer service at Notre Dame Cathedral to open the celebrations in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. All are most welcome to attend. We will mark the close of this special year with a ceremony on the Solemnity of Christ the King on November 24, 2013.
In his letter calling for this special year to deepen our understanding and living out our faith, the Holy Father said, “We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope…; to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist…; to ensure that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility; to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed.”
Here are some of the ways in which the Pope suggests we can take advantage of this special year to grow in our appreciation for our God-given faith:
First, we can memorize and come to understand more fully our confession of faith that is the Nicene Creed. The English-speaking community, particularly, is challenged in this regard because we have received a new translation of the creed in the last year. The unfamiliar wording may have provoked questions on our part.
Secondly, we can set aside time to grow in our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to renew your practices of daily prayer, reading scripture, reflecting on relationships and, of course, frequently celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These are powerful ways of growing in fidelity to the Lord and his Body the Church.
Thirdly, we should strive to worship wholeheartedly at Mass. Let us put into practice the Council’s expressed wish that Catholics take full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. It is my sincere belief that God calls us to assist at Mass every Sunday, however difficult that might be, and, when possible, at daily Mass.
Fourthly, we have a wonderful, systematic overview of our faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of its promulgation. This is an excellent occasion to get to know our faith better by studying the exposition of the teachings in the Catechism or in the Compendium of the CCC published in 2005.
Finally, no true growth in faith takes place without an awareness of the call on our lives to reach out and to serve our neighbour. Jesus directs us to works of charity and social justice, but also to sharing our faith—to open the door of faith to others through witness and our way of life.
To focus on the Year of Faith in our Archdiocese of Ottawa, I recommend two scripture texts.
The first is a verse from the Acts of the Apostles. In it, the apostles Paul and Barnabas, on their return from the first missionary journey, “related all that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith” (Acts 14.27). In the last book of the Bible, we see that in heaven “a door stood open” leading into God’s presence , the fulfilment of our deepest desires (Revelation 4.1). It tells us that God always takes the initiative, drawing us to himself.
The second text echoes the request of the apostles to Jesus to “increase our faith” (Luke 17.5). This reminds us that even our response needs God’s grace to be effective.
I encourage you to enter the door of faith this coming jubilee year to grow in friendship with Christ and in charity to others. Let us enter intently together on this journey of faith in the coming thirteen months.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Terrence Prendergast, S.J.
Archbishop of Ottawa