Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 2, 2012

Pope Benedict on Adult Faith Formation

Zenit reported recently some powerful words from the Pope to priests of Rome, concerning in particular the need for adult catechesis. Below is a portion of the report – it is brief, but so very encouraging to hear. Our current crisis in the West is seen and recognized by the Pope: “One great problem facing the Church today is the lack of knowledge of the faith, ‘religious illiteracy,'”

FEB. 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI on Thursday met with priests of his diocese and led them in “lectio divina,” offering a spontaneous Scripture reflection.
……..
Immature faith
Lack of humility destroys the unity of Christ’s Body. Yet at the same time, unity cannot develop without knowledge. “One great problem facing the Church today is the lack of knowledge of the faith, ‘religious illiteracy,'” the Pope said. “With such illiteracy we cannot grow. … Therefore we must reappropriate the contents of the faith, not as a packet of dogmas and commandments, but as a unique reality revealed in its all its profoundness and beauty.

We must do everything possible for catechetical renewal in order for the faith to be known, God to be known, Christ to be known, the truth to be known, and for unity in the truth to grow.”
We cannot, Benedict XVI warned, live in “a childhood of faith.” Many adults have never gone beyond the first catechesis, meaning that “they cannot — as adults, with competence and conviction — explain and elucidate the philosophy of the faith, its great wisdom and rationality” in order to illuminate the minds of others. To do this they need an “adult faith.”

To turn this immense ship about, more intentionally toward “full, active and conscious participation” in our common vocation to evangelize, toward the obedience of faith and worship, will not be easy! There is so much inertia, and habits are hard to change. So many have so small a sense of our calling to be light in this world! To evangelize! To leave all and follow Him! To be a People worthy of His Holy Name!

Let us pray and work, work and pray. May God ignite fires of zeal where there is now sleepiness, courage where there is now timidity, magnanimity (“great-soul-ness”) where now the opposite reigns. Grace is volatile, and our Source is abundant. Mary, please pray with us and for us.


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    I am grateful to the Lord for giving this Pope to the Church for this time! How true it is that God raises up saints at every moment of history! Bl. John Paul II and Pope Paul VI began urging us all toward the “New Evangelization” that Pope Benedict XVI is now continuing. In the words you have quoted from our present Pope, we read again of his deep insights into the need for all of us together to build up the Body of Christ in Love.

    We need to do this on every level if we are to grow. We cannot be content with children who “graduate” from our schools or religion classes and think they know all there is to know about God, the Church and their faith. We cannot, as adults physically, assume we have an adult faith, especially if we are not continually seeking to nourish our own spiritual growth in mind and heart. We need to set examples for our children; and we need to grow in order to share with the whole world the light of mature faith in Christ. We need to grow into the fullness of Christ. (cf. Ephesians 4 : 11-16)

    The Year of Faith to be proclaimed in October of this year, and the Synod of Bishops meeting on the theme of the New Evangelization also in October of this year may lend some “sparks” to the smoldering embers. However, each of us needs to ask himself/herself: “What am I doing to grow in my faith?” and “What am I doing to help others to grow into maturity in faith?”

    Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the Faithful, kindle in us the Fire of Your Love! Let us not be “drowsy” disciples, asleep while Our Lord suffers.

    Mary, Mother of the Church, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.
    St. Joseph, Guardian of the Universal Church, pray for us.

  2. Hi Thomas and Deborah,

    Pope John Paul The Great, I believe, would not have been able to accomplish so much without the help of Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He ordered, not this long ago, that five hundred priests study for their Ph.D.

    We are fortunate to have Benedict XVI as our Pope, one who understands, articulates, and writes about what the New Evangelization means.

    • Dear Gene,

      Thanks for your reply. Yes, this present Pope, like Bl. John Paul II and Paul VI have done much. They have shown us how to “study on our knees”!

      When prayer truly permeates our study then we are able to share Christ and not merely words on a page. Jesus has told us that out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks, and so we want to continually grow in Christ, that we may communicate Him to others. Blessed John Paul II said it so well when he defined catechesis as putting persons into intimate communion with Christ.

      Please let us continue to pray and study, lovingly, for the Glory of God, in love for His Church and all those in most need of His Mercy.

  3. Gn 18:20-32; Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8; Lk 11:1-13

    In the first reading, Abraham intercedes for Sodom, and the Lord listens
    to him and agrees to answer it on condition. And the Responsorial Psalm is:
    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me. In the gospel, Jesus
    teaches the disciples the Our Father and he tells us that we must persist
    in prayer, to continue to appeal. And then he gives us the good news, comforting information: He says: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

    On July 26, 1995, in his general audience Pope John Paul II had this to say concerning prayers.

    “Thus, the fundamental attitude of Christians who have this unity at heart
    and who are aware of the gap that exists between the unity desired by Christ
    and what has concretely been achieved, cannot but be to turn their eyes to
    heaven and to implore God to provide ever new incentives to unity with the
    Holy Spirit’s inspiration. According to the Council’s instructions, we should
    first of all recognize the essential value of prayer for unity. Indeed, this
    is not reduced to a mere form of harmony of good human relations. Jesus asked the Father for unity among believers modeled on the divine communion in which he and his Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, are “one” (Jn 17:20-21). This is a goal that can only be reached with the help of God’s grace. Hence the need for prayer.”

    Christians who lead healthy prayer lives, do help to defeat the enemy, the one who is there, always ready to lead souls away from God.

    • Gene and Thomas…I agree, and not just because I was born for unity.

      We were very poor and almost always ill, especially me because I had severe asthmatic problems.

      From the time I was about 3 years old, I would have the worst attacks when there was disunity in the family.

      The worst time was when my mom and my gramma were angry at one another. I decided I had to do something to help them be friends again.

      So I made a plan I went to my gramma first because I knew she’d be the easy one. I went in the kitchen, sat down for a few minutes and then said, “Gramma, I feel so sorry for mom, she’s so tired…she always has so much to do because my brothers and me are almost always sick.”

      I left the room, got my coloring book and crayons and went to my mom who was sitting in the living room. I pretended I was coloring and
      looked up at her. The only thing I could think of to say was mom, is gramma gonna die soon…she’s so old?

      Then I got up to leave quickly just as my gramma came in and said to my mom, “Minnie, would you like a jelly bismark…there’s two left”….and my mom replied, oh, yes…I’ll go make the coffee.

      I could breathe again.

      Mary

  4. Dear Mary,

    My father died at the age of 53, he was severely asthmatic. After serving in the army during WWII, upon returning home dad worked in a paper mill, this department turned raw wood into paper. Strong chemicals were used to accomplish this, one day his lung collapsed.

    It must have been difficult for him while growing up, his parents were farmers. During summers they had to cut hay and then stored it in a barn. I did this type of work during summer holidays, and I found it hard to breath when one had to spread this material evenly.

    What has impressed me the most about him is that before going to work, he would always recite the rosary. I think this is where he got his strength to persevere to the end. He knew that he was dying and had made his peace with God.

    Regards,

    Gene

    • Gene, thank you. What a treasure your dad was…and now he must be very proud of you…

      Mary

  5. Before our pastor starts Mass, he always reminds us to “take a moment to consciously put ourselves in the presence of God.”

    The deep silence is sometimes indiscribably powerful for me…there are times when I have felt as if we were about to ascend straight to Heaven.

    Many years ago when I first met the Work of Mary [Focolare] I knew God was calling me to leave everything and give my life for the Church and for “that they may all be one”.

    One of the most wonderful comments…Adult Formation… I heard from our Foundress, Chiara Lubich, was that in God’s great love for us he gave us the questions he would be asking of us at the Last Judgement…….

    The Judgment of the Nations.* 31f “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41* j Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Mary

    • Hello Mary,

      Your parish is blessed to have your priest begin Mass in such a moment of prayerful recollection. We need – we really need – help in becoming a more prayerful and recollected people! The sense of reverence that can come in such a moment is truly a treasure for the soul. May the Lord bless him for that, and your whole church.

      Thomas

  6. Greetings, Thomas…

    Thank you for your beautiful comments you gave my pastor.

    My husband [now deceased after 56 years of marriage] and I were early risers and always went to the eight o’clock Mass because we enjoyed going to breakfast after Mass.

    One Sunday we both overslept and we went to the ten o’clock Mass deciding on a late breakfast.

    Entering Mass we were treated to several thousand infants and toddlers.making the most indescrible sounds. [my husband counted them, ehem].

    He said this was the last time we’d ever wake up late..

    Enter Father. He calmly walked to the front of the church and calmly said, “let’s take a moment to consciously put ourselves in the presence of God.”

    My husband whispered, “yeah, right”.

    What followed was the silence of all silences – totally unimaginable.

    Now I don’t know if this happens at all his Masses…or…had my husband and I gone into total shock.

    For a few moments I thought the entire Church was going to ascend.

    Mary

  7. Greetings, Thomas, this quote, as you probably already know, is from EVANGELII NUNTIANDI

    70. Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world and in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason exercise a very special form of evangelization.

    Their primary and immediate task is not to establish and develop the ecclesial community- this is the specific role of the pastors- but to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, suffering. The more Gospel-inspired lay people there are engaged in these realities, clearly involved in them, competent to promote them and conscious that they must exercise to the full their Christian powers which are often buried and suffocated, the more these realities will be at the service of the kingdom of God and therefore of salvation in Jesus Christ, without in any way losing or sacrificing their human content but rather pointing to a transcendent dimension which is often disregarded.

    I’m thinking that the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith will greatly help us laity understand and live our own vocation as we strive to always do the will of God.

    Mary

  8. Thomas, perhaps you have already these two quotes from Pope Benedict XVI.

    I suggest they be read by listening to the “voice of the Holy Spirit” since Jesus told us, “I will send the Spirit and the Spirit will teach you all things”.

    “One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer”
    (Homily at Inaugural Mass – April 25, 2005)

    “The Spirit gives us a deep relationship with God, who is the source of all authentic human good. All of you desire to love and to be loved!
    It is to God that you must turn, if you want to learn how to love, and to find the strength to love. The Spirit, who is Love, can open your hearts to accept the gift of genuine love.” (H. H. Benedict XVI, Address to Youth, Sept. 12, 2008)

    Mary

  9. I wish we had younger priests in our diosease who are full of zeal in spreading the teaching of the Church.

    Mass is celebrated mechanically, it’s a disgrace. Scandals has not been helpful in the recruitment of young men. Talking with an American priest we spent a few days with, while he was visiting this part of Canada, his feelings was that heresy in our clergy is common.

    It’s best to pray to our patron of priests, Saint Jean Vieanney, maybe the Holy Spirit will have pity on us.

    Dissapointed.

    Gene

    • Mary and Gene – Thank you both for your comments, especially concerning the need for the power of the Spirit in our priests as they preach and as they offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. The unction of the Spirit makes a powerful testimony, in the hearts of the faithful and in unbelievers. How we all need to be transparent to His presence and His power!

  10. Thomas, listening to the Holy Spirit is also how I meditate. Over 40 years ago my husband bought me a Bible for my birthday.

    One day I randomly opened it to the prayer of Jesus. (John 17:11-23)
    I understood instantly that Jesus was calling me to, leave everything and follow Him…I was stunned and confused because I was married and had four children.

    I finally got the courage to talk to my priest…He told me that God does call
    some people to leave everything in a ‘spiritual’ way and follow Him…so I said ‘yes’ forever and like St. Matthew,..”I got up and followed Him”

    Mary

  11. Dear Mary,

    For health reasons, I cannot assist Mass on a daily basis even on Sundays and I find this perturbing. Maybe I don’t try hard enough but it takes me almost three hours to get ready for the day. Little chores like shaving, washing, and getting dress is a slow and painful process. I mentioned that I find it disturbing because I always feel that I could try more, after all, I can go for walks in the park later on in the day to get some relief from the constant musles contractions.

    But, I do find confort in the reciting the rosary, reading Scripture, and by listening to some excellent Catholic mp3 files downloaded from EWTN and Catholic Answers.

    Gene

  12. Gene, we have much in common! I’m ancient and unable to do many things. I can walk around the house [inside] using my walker…I can’t do much because my spine is virtually in pieces.

    For one thing among many others, It seems to me that both of us are faithful evangelizers; A daily rosary where we ask God to forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us and we ask our Blessed Mother to “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death , ,Amen.

    Mary

  13. This is from “Gerhard” a priest friend of mine.

    http://gerhard-hattinghsblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/oct-11-grow-in-reciprocal-love.html.

    We always meditate listening to the ‘voice’ of the Holy Spirit.since Jesus said , “I will send the Spirit and the Spirit will teach you all things”.

    Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit of the New Evangelization.

    Mary

  14. Thomas….greetings again.

    I have a bit more Pope Benedict XVI for your Blog

    :

    If it is the Word that gathers the community, it is the Eucharist that makes it one body: “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10: 17). The Church, therefore, is not the result of an aggregation of individuals but of unity among those who are nourished by the one Word of God and the one Bread of Life. Communion and the unity of the Church that are born of the Eucharist, are a reality of which we must be ever more aware, also in receiving Holy Communion, ever more aware that we are entering into unity with Christ and thus become one among ourselves. We must learn ever anew to preserve and defend this unity from the rivalry, disputes, and jealousies that can be kindled in and among ecclesial communities. In particular, I would like to ask the movements and communities that came into being after the Second Vatican Council and that in our Diocese too are a precious gift for which we must always thank the Lord, I would like to ask these movements, which I repeat are a gift, always to ensure that their formation processes lead their members to develop a true sense of belonging to the parish community. The Eucharist, as I have said, is the centre of parish life, and particularly of the Sunday celebration. Since the unity of the Church is born from the encounter with the Lord, the great care given to adoration and celebration of the Eucharist, enabling those who participate in it to experience the beauty of Christ’s mystery is no secondary matter. Given that the beauty of the liturgy “is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 35), it is important that the Eucharistic celebration manifest and communicate, through the sacramental signs, the divine life and reveal the true face of the Church to the men and women of this City.

    The spiritual and apostolic growth of the community then leads to its extension through a convinced missionary action. Strive, therefore, in every parish as at the time of the City Mission, to restore life to the small groups or counselling centres for the faithful who proclaim Christ and his word, places where it is possible to experience faith, to put charity into practice and to organize hope. This structuring of the large urban parishes by the multiplication of small communities allows the mission a larger breathing space, which takes into account the density of the population and its social and cultural features which are often very different. If this pastoral method is also to be applied effectively in workplaces, it would be important to evangelize them with a well thought-out and adapted pastoral ministry since, because of the high social mobility, it is here that people spend a large part of their day.

    Lastly, the witness of charity that unites hearts and opens them to ecclesial belonging should not be forgotten. Historians answer the question as to how the success of Christianity in the first centuries can be explained, the ascent of a presumed Jewish sect to the religion of the Empire, by saying that it was the experience of Christian charity in particular that convinced the world. Living charity is the primary form of missionary outreach. The word proclaimed and lived becomes credible if it is incarnate in behaviour that demonstrates solidarity and sharing, in deeds that show the Face of Christ as man’s true Friend. May the silent, daily witness of charity, promoted by parishes thanks to the commitment of numerous lay faithful continue to spread increasingly, so that those who live in suffering feel the Church’s closeness and experience the love of the Father rich in mercy. Therefore be “Good Samaritans”, ready to treat the material and spiritual wounds of your brethren. Deacons, conformed by ordination to Christ the Servant, will be able to carry out a useful service in promoting fresh attention to the old and new forms of poverty. I am also thinking of the young people: dear friends, I invite you to put your enthusiasm and creativity at the service of Christ and the Gospel, making yourselves apostles of your peers, ready to respond generously to the Lord if he calls you to follow him more closely, in the priesthood or in consecrated life.

    Dear brothers and sisters, the future of Christianity and of the Church in Rome also depends on the commitment and witness of each one of us. I invoke for this the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, venerated for centuries in the Basilica of St Mary Major as Salus populi romani. As she did with the Apostles in the Upper Room while awaiting Pentecost, may she also accompany us and encourage us to look with trust to the future. With these sentiments, while I thank you for your daily work, I warmly impart to you all a special Apostolic Blessing.

    The entire Article is availabe here:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2009/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20090526_convegno-diocesi-rm_en.html

    Mary

  15. This is so true:

    “The Holy Spirit guides us towards the heights of God,
    so that, on this earth, we can already experience
    the seed of divine life that is within us.” Benedict XVI

    Mary

  16. More Benedict XVI:

    Dear Brother Bishops,
    Dear brothers and sisters,

    With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforced by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks. ……………………..

    …………………………………….
    I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in the Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is against this dynamic background that I like to look at the two radiant figures that I have just proclaimed Doctors of the Church, Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other.

    excerpts from

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2012/documents/hf_b
    en-xvi_hom_20121007_apertura-sinodo_en.html

    Mary

  17. Thomas, I was thinking that Pope Benedict’s APOSTOLIC LETTER
    “MOTU PROPRIO DATA” more than likely would be of great value to all of us so I’m posting the first three sections to get your opinion:

    FOR THE INDICTION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH

    1. The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8): the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s glorious return.

    2. Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”[1] It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied.[2] Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.

    3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.

    Mary

    • This is beautiful, Mary, and very relevant to the need in the Church to be persons of faith, and to be proclaimers of the faith. The Pope sees clearly the dire need in the secular world for the life that is found only in God! And the Church was sent to preach that life.

      Why does the Church continue “in maintenance mode”, when the call to mission is so plain?

  18. Thomas, thank you…

    About this,… “Why does the Church continue “in maintenance mode”, when the call to mission is so plain?”

    Since we’re not ‘the military’ we have ‘free will’.. Enter the beyond deplorable catechesis in the west. That’s us as you already know.

    Perhaps it’s an unintentional “bypassing” of the Holy Spirit by many, many Christians of all denominations including us..

    Jesus said, “I will send the Spirit and the Spirit will teach you all things”..

    Mary

  19. Thomas and others who are interested; paragraphs 4&5…

    4. In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II,[3] with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith. This document, an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council, was requested by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 as an instrument at the service of catechesis[4] and it was produced in collaboration with all the bishops of the Catholic Church. Moreover, the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that I have convoked for October 2012 is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith. It is not the first time that the Church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith. My venerable Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul on the 19th centenary of their supreme act of witness. He thought of it as a solemn moment for the whole Church to make “an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith”; moreover, he wanted this to be confirmed in a way that was “individual and collective, free and conscious, inward and outward, humble and frank”.[5] He thought that in this way the whole Church could reappropriate “exact knowledge of the faith, so as to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it, and confess it”.[6] The great upheavals of that year made even more evident the need for a celebration of this kind. It concluded with the Credo of the People of God,[7] intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past.

    5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a “consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period”,[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition … I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]

    Mary

  20. Thomas and all other interested people; more Words from our Holy Father

    6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While “Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)… the Church … clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.”[11]

    The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried … with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).

    7. “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, “strengthen themselves by believing”.[12] The saintly Bishop of Hippo had good reason to express himself in this way. As we know, his life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God.[13] His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, continue even now to form a heritage of incomparable riches, and they still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the “door of faith”.

    Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.

    Mary

  21. Thomas, this is very encouraging..

    8. On this happy occasion, I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith. We want to celebrate this Year in a worthy and fruitful manner. Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times. Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo.

    9. 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. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; … and also the source from which all its power flows.”[14] At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed,[15] and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.

    Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: “the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”[16]

    Mary

  22. Thomas, and all…good morning!

    For us laity, here’s the directions to sanctification:.

    According to the Council, in this transcendent priestly reality of Christ’s mystery the laity are called to offer their whole lives as a spiritual sacrifice, thus cooperating with the entire Church in the Redeemer’s continual consecration of the world. This is the laity’s great mission: “For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne–all these become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God” (cf. LG 34; CCC 901).

    Mary

  23. Thomas, and all; what great love Pope Benedict has for us…!

    10. At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.

    The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.

    Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This “standing with him” points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.

    Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith. In the faith of the Christian community, each individual receives baptism, an effective sign of entry into the people of believers in order to obtain salvation. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “ ‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. ‘I believe’ is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both ‘I believe’ and ‘we believe’.”[17]

    Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God. The giving of assent implies that, when we believe, we freely accept the whole mystery of faith, because the guarantor of its truth is God who reveals himself and allows us to know his mystery of love.[18]

    On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic “preamble” to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for “what is perennially valid and lasting”.[19] This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us.[20] To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.

    Mary

  24. Greetings, Thomas..I believe there is much here that will clarify quite a bit for all of us.

    11. In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “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.”[21]

    It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.

    In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church. The profession of faith is followed by an account of sacramental life, in which Christ is present, operative and continues to build his Church. Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness. By the same criterion, the teaching of the Catechism on the moral life acquires its full meaning if placed in relationship with faith, liturgy and prayer.

    12. In this Year, then, the Catechism of the Catholic Church will serve as a tool providing real support for the faith, especially for those concerned with the formation of Christians, so crucial in our cultural context. To this end, I have invited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by agreement with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See, to draw up a Note, providing the Church and individual believers with some guidelines on how to live this Year of Faith in the most effective and appropriate ways, at the service of belief and evangelization.

    To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.[22]

    Mary

  25. Thomas, another Treasure:

    13. One thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the
    interweaving of holiness and sin. While the former highlights the great contribution that men and women have made to the growth and development of the community through the witness of their lives, the latter must provoke in each person a sincere and continuing work of conversion in order to experience the mercy of the Father which is held out to everyone.

    During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.

    By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).

    By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35). By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.

    By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

    By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.

    By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay. By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

    By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.

    By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.

    Mary

  26. Greetings, Thomas; small, but extremely powerfull message.

    14. The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). With even stronger words – which have always placed Christians under obligation – Saint James said: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18).

    Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbour along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).

    Mary

  27. Thomas, and all…

    15. Having reached the end of his life, Saint Paul asks his disciple Timothy to “aim at faith” (2 Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (cf. 2 Tim 3:15). We hear this invitation directed to each of us, that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.

    “That the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph” (2 Th 3:1): may this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love. The words of Saint Peter shed one final ray of light on faith: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6-9). The life of Christians knows the experience of joy as well as the experience of suffering. How many of the saints have lived in solitude! How many believers, even in our own day, are tested by God’s silence when they would rather hear his consoling voice! The trials of life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col 1:24), are a prelude to the joy and hope to which faith leads: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With this sure confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst, overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father.

    Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45).

    Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 October in the year 2011, the seventh of my Pontificate.

    BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

    Mary


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