Year of Faith - Pastoral Letter - Bishop Richards

PASTORAL LETTER – 2012

Dear Clergy, Religious, and Faithful of St. John’s-Basseterre Diocese,

Re: THE YEAR OF FAITH: THE DOOR OF FAITH (Acts 14:27) IS ALWAYS OPEN FORUS, USHERING US INTO THE LIFE OF COMMUNION WITH GOD AND OFFERING ENTRY INTO HIS CHURCH

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, declared October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013″ The Year of Faith”. This declaration occurred on Thursday October 11, 2012, the 50thAnniversary of the Opening of Vatican II and the 20th Anniversary of the Publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On this occasion our Holy Father invited bishops throughout the world to join with him, the Successor of Peter, in facilitating the time of grace that Jesus Christ our Lord offers us. The Year will be an occasion for the Church to recall and celebrate the precious gift of faith in a worthy and fruitful manner by intensified reflection on the
deposit and content of faith so that believers in Jesus Christ will acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel. Bishops are to lead their local Churches so that there will be a renewed conviction, confidence, and hope, in the profession of faith in Jesus Christ, in our Cathedrals and Churches, Religious Communities and Ecclesial Associations, in our homes and among our families. This profession, made with particular consciousness, must be the indication that the mission entrusted to the Church by Our Lord will once again be vibrant and visible. It is the hope of our Holy Father that the Year of Faith will be the opportunity that the Church, inclusive of the Clergy, Religious and the Lay Faithful, will rediscover the journey of faith on a personal level, Diocesan level, and Universal level. And, through this rediscovery shed light on the joy and enthusiasm of the believer’s encounter with Christ.

 

Just as Pope Paul VI intended with the declaration of a Year of Faith in
1967, the current Year of Faith will be a solemn moment for the whole Church to re-appropriate “exact knowledge of the faith, so as to re-invigorate it, purify it, confirm it, and confess it” so that “an authentic and sincere profession of faith” will be made by the Catholic christian in every sphere of human existence and engagement with the world. Indeed, the urgency of the commitment that each of us are called on to make during this solemn year, must give serious consideration to the grave difficulties and challenges of our time, especially in regard to the rejection and negation of the role and contribution, the profession of the true faith and its interpretation must make in charting the progress of human existence.

 

Each Catholic Faithful is therefore invited to note the timing of the launch of the Year of Faith. The Year coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of
the Catholic Church. By this timing, the Holy Father is inviting us to recognize that possessing and understanding the CONTENT OF FAITH is most important if faith is to be lived and proclaimed authentically. The launch will also take place during the Synod of Bishops, meeting in Rome, deliberating on the Theme: The New Evangelization for  the transmission of the Faith.

 

Therefore, one of the underlying duties for each Catholic during the Year of Faith is that there must be a study of the documents that have been given to us by the Second Vatican Council, and a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These are resource materials on faith that will guide authentic interpretation of Scripture and instruct practical living of the faith in our current context In the words of Blessed John Paul II, even though 50 years have elapsed since the Council, the documents of Vatican II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance.

 

Therefore, they need to be (1) read
correctly, (2) to be widely known and (3) to be taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition.” These documents he noted, provide the compass by which we can be guided in living the faith in a very complex world.

 

Cardinal Levada, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, indicates that the purpose of the Second Vatican Council for Pope John XXIII was to provide for a clear explanation of the doctrines underlying our faith in response to the needs of our time. Of course, interpretation and response was to be accomplished without misrepresenting the unchanging truths that are the content of Christian Faith.

 

Therefore, through the work, study, prayer, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Bishops of the Council produced the following:

 

Four Constitutions:

1. The Constitution Lumen Gentium – Dogmatic Constitution On the Church

Highlighting for us that Christ is the
Light of Nations…therefore, the Church          believers..must bring the Light of Christ to all peoples the light that must be brightly    visible in the countenance of the Church.

2. The Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium – Dogmatic Constitution On the Sacred Liturgy

Highlighting for us that the Light of Christ purifies, illuminates, and sanctifies us     through the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy…primarily, the celebration of the Eucharist.

 

3. The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum – The Dogmatic Constitution On Revelation

Highlighting for us that the proclamation of the Divine Word is the Light for our eyes and the lamp of our feet revealing God, His will, and purpose.

 

4. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes – The Pastoral Constitution On the Church in the Modern World

Explaining that the Church, because of its role in the world, must fulfil this role by             revealing the Light of Christ

 

nAlong with these four Constitutions the Bishops of the Council promulgated three Declarations and nine Decrees that address some of the major challenges of the contemporary world.

 

The Declarations are:

 

1. Nostra Aetate – In Our Age

Declaration on the relationship of the Church with Non-Christian Religions…promoting      love and unity among men and nations

 

2. Gravissimum Educationis – The Extreme Importance of Education

Declaration on Christian Education…its importance for persons and its influence on          social progress

 

3. Dignitatis Humanae – The Dignity of the Human Person

Declaration on Religious Freedom

 

The Decrees are:

 

1. Ad Gentes – Sent to the Nations of the World

Decree on the Mission activity of the Church which is divinely sent to be a sacrament of   salvation to the nations of the world

 

2. Presbyterorum Ordinis – The
Excellence of the Order of Priests

-           Decree on the ministry and life of priests

 

3. Apostolicam Actuositatem – Apostolic Activity

Decree on the apostolate of the Laity…the People of God

 

4. Optatam Totius – Renewal of the Whole

Decree on the importance of priestly formation and training animated by the spirit of         Christ

 

5. Perfectae Caritatis – Perfect Charity

Decree on the renewal of religious life through the evangelical councils

 

6. Christus Dominus – Christ the Lord

Decree on the pastoral office of the Bishops in the Church…an office to be exercised so that all persons will be sanctified in the truth

 

7. Unitatis Redintegratio – Restoration of Unity

Decree on ecumenism…that Christ established one Church…and that division      contradicts the will of Christ

 

8. Orientalium Ecclesiarum – Eastern Churches

Decree on the
Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite…these are held in high esteem as   they uphold the Apostolic Tradition

 

9. Inter Mirifica – Among the Wonderful

Decree on the means of social communication…their positive values and dangers

 

The other major resource for study during the Year of Faith, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, is regarded as the fruit of the Vatican II Council. It is the precious and indispensable tool that provides the believer with a systematic ordering of the content of our faith. According to Blessed John Paul II, who wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum – the Deposit of Faith, “This catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church…I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.” Hence, this document must be our companion during the Year of Faith, so that the believer can have in hand a resource
that offers with certitude, the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed for her two thousand years of history.

 

The Catechism presents not theory, but an encounter with a person. The content is based on the Scriptures, and the explanation given by the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, the Saints, and the Theological Masters across the centuries.

During the Year of Faith, the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church must be the primary resource materials that guide our authentic interpretation of Scripture. The goal must be that our heart, mind and will are opened to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ by the rediscovering of our faith. This conversion must then lead each Catholic to embark on a New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian Faith.

 

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, asks that the Church makes this new evangelization credible by a joy-filled witness
to the Risen Lord, so that each of us lead men & women, boys & girls, to the PORTA FIDEI…THE DOOR OF FAITH…the door that will open for all peoples to gaze at Christ who offers life in abundance to all who come to Him.

 

What are practical steps to be taken in this Year of Faith?

 

1. Acknowledging that Faith is nurtured by the Word of God, we must

a. Spend time reading and reflecting on the Word of God in Scripture – this is a required commitment during the Year of Faith. In this way, knowledge will increased, growth in understanding will be made possible, and action can be decided on as expression of faith with

conviction.

Accomplish this by Lexio Divina – Divine Reading of the Scriptures

1. Lexio – prayerful reading

2. Meditatio – meditation and reflection

3. Contemplatio – contemplate by resting with a thought

4. Actio – Decide on an action inspired by meditation and contemplation

5. Oratio – pray asking
Divine assistance to fulfil commitment.

 

b. Make time for reading and studying the Council Documents and CCC

i. Access these resource by purchase or on the internet (Google) for                                              personal reading and study

ii. Attend workshops organized for studying the documents

iii. Take the initiative to organize study groups on the documents

 

2. In order that faith does not remain only in the realm of awareness and a feeling thathave…profession of faith must be made. Make this profession by

:i. Sharing with others your faith…

1. share what you have learned from scripture,

2. share what you experience during prayer and worship,

3. share the ways you recognize God acting in you life

ii. Profession of Faith must always be declared by stating what the Scriptures say or by stating what the Church teaches

a. So nurture a disposition for stating your submission to God’s will or the
teaching of the Church

b. Articulate your struggle and attempt to submit to God’s will and the teaching of the Church, but do not deny, ignore, or doubt what God reveals and what the Church teaches

 

3. Know that the power that energizes faith is Charity – Love. If the believer can identify, experience, and express love for God and the Church, living by faith is made more possible. In other words, faith can only be authentic when a person knows the Love of God and the Church, and reciprocates that love. We must learn from the dynamic and elements involved in the human experience of love, so that we can know how God loves each of us.

a. Our experience of love includes

i. Attraction to the beloved, the experience of delighting in the beloved, and the                              desire of caring for the beloved

ii. It must be that we must take the opportunity to discover the attraction that God                          has for each of us individually such that He
delights in us, and the ways he                               shows this delight by caring for us. God loves us because He created us in His                            image and likeness out of love to be the subject of His love.

 

1. Only by sharing time with the One who loves can the beloved know the reasons for being love – the religious context for this experience requires that we make time for prayer with devotion

2. Then suddenly and almost without perception, the beloved can either fight and resist, or find the self incapable of resisting the attraction of the Lover. Then the beloved receives freely and with thanksgiving the love of the Lover.

a. In this way the person of faith allows the self to be drawn and captured by The One who alone is infinitely worthy of love…as Virgil says: What draws (attracts) a person is pleasure…from this St. Augustine concludes in relation to faith…that it is not by necessity but pleasure, not coercion but charm, that attracts us.

nTherefore, how much can we say that those who are attracted to Jesus Christ delight in truth, in the beatitude, in justice, in eternal life, all things that Jesus Christ is!

b. By receiving this Love we will reciprocate love. Then even when these reasons fade, love and faith does not die even if they are shaken by trial.

May each Catholic of the Diocese of St. John’s-Basseterre participate in the Year of Faith, by study and reflection that will lead to renewed conversion. And, as we proceed on this journey, may our quality of life be such as to lead others to the Door of Faith, so that they may enter a life of communion with God!

Yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Kenneth Richards

Bishop St. John’s-Basseterre