Local Catholics called to open the door of faith

Giancarlo Giuliani | Catholic News Service
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When the Second Vatican Council convened in 1962, Pope John XXIII indicated that the intent of the council was to reaffirm the Church's role as a prophetic voice in the world.

Fifty years later, Catholics are still being challenged to carry on the late pontiff's vision, said Msgr. Mark Rivituso, vicar general for the archdiocese.

The Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to renew their personal relationship with Jesus and to recommit to His mission of evangelization, explained Msgr. Rivituso.

"We're called to adhere to and teach the truths of Jesus and His Church, but we're also called to bring that faith to be a living faith," he said.

In August, Msgr. Rivituso sent a letter to all archdiocesan priests with specific recommendations of how parishes can make their faith relevant in the world during this Year of Faith. The list was compiled with the help of the archdiocesan Mission Advancement Initiative's Evangelization Committee. Recommendations were made in three areas: sacraments, devotional life and prayer; faith formation; and hospitality, ministry and charity. (See related box for adapted recommendations for individuals.)

"This is only a starting point, and never meant to be an exhaustive list," said Msgr. Rivituso. "We recognize that every parish is different, but we hope this will inspire parishes and to encourage all to rediscover and share their faith. This is not only important for the Year of Faith, but beyond it, too."

Opening the Door

When Pope Benedict XVI announced the Year of Faith last October, he explained that to enter the door of faith "is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime."

For each individual, that picture of faith will look very different, according to Bishop Peter Elliott, who delivered a homily on the topic last weekend at St. Mary of Victories Parish Downtown.

"The Church does not require one emotional experience of faith," said the auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, Australia, who also gave a public lecture on the liturgy while he was in town.

However, what's important to remember is that while individuals will develop a personal relationship with Christ, faith must always be understood in the context of "a believing community of faith." Through our shared belief and discipleship, we are able to strengthen one another and the Church, he said.

"There is no single answer to what is faith," Bishop Elliott noted. The Catechism offers a range of meanings, including faith as a human act, a grace, an assent to revealed truths and even the idea of faith and eternal life.

But there is one basic meaning, he explained. "We are called to begin with truth. There should be no limit of trust in faith." And the object of our trust is Jesus Christ.

Open to the Holy Spirit

How does one open the door to faith? Such a task can be achieved through opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit in our lives, according to Msgr. Rivituso.

"In order to be evangelized and to evangelize, we need to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit in our lives," he said. "We have to pray to the Holy Spirit to be inspired -- to embrace the Good News of Christ in our own lives and to be excited, joyful and fervent in sharing the Good news with others."

Becoming open to that requires acts of prayer and charity, said the priest.

"If we're going to live in the intimacy with Christ and rediscover faith, faith must be lived in action, and that is through charity. That is accomplished through conforming our hearts to Jesus and showing others, in their poverty and need, the same compassion that Jesus had."

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