For the forthcoming Year of Faith England’s newest bishop has called for “systematic” study of the Catechism, more Eucharistic Adoration in parishes and schools to pray the Angelus at midday.
In a pastoral letter Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said: “It would be good for all of us, priests and people, to attempt this year a systematic study of the Creed and Catechism, receiving and learning the doctrines expressed therein, and then explore their meaning and value for our lives.”
The bishop said that parishes could “help everyone deepen their faith by arranging periods of Eucharistic Adoration, and advertising times when the church is open for visits to the Blessed Sacrament”.
He added: “It would be good, too, for our schools to pray the Angelus at midday, recalling Mary’s response of faith and to encourage staff and students to say the ‘Apostles Creed’, as on the Year of Faith bookmarks.”
Bishop Egan proposed wearing a crucifix, saying grace before a meal, inviting a non-practising friend to Mass, or installing a rosary or devotional item in a car.
But he reminded Catholics that no one is “saved by a programme or a structure, but only by a Person, Jesus Christ, and, as his disciple, by a personal-passionate friendship with him”.
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, meanwhile, also stressed the importance of educating ourselves about the faith in his pastoral letter, saying: “We must know our Catholic faith if we are able to enter into dialogue with our contemporaries on an increasing range of questions.”
The same message was given by Pope Benedict who said that the forthcoming year will give “renewed energy to the mission of the whole Church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life”.
“Faith grows when it is lives as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy,” the Holy Father wrote.
The Year of Faith opens next Thursday, October 11, a date chosen by the Pope to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Besides greater study and prayer, the Year is to be accompanied by more acts of charity.
Bishop Egan’s pastoral letter:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing to you about something special that begins this coming Thursday, 11th October. But first, I wish to express my gratitude to you, for the truly warm welcome that you have given me as your new bishop. The religious splendour and awe of the Ordination Mass, in the Cathedral on 24th September, the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, is still very fresh in my heart and mind. I thank you profoundly for all the Masses, sacrifices and prayers, that you have offered for my intentions, as I begin my apostolic ministry as the Eighth Bishop of Portsmouth. On all our behalf, I thank dear Bishop Crispian and I ask you to pray for him, as he enters his well-deserved retirement, after twenty-three years of generous service, as our teacher, priest and pastor. As your new bishop, I am conscious of the
deep tradition of faith that has existed in this Diocese of Portsmouth with its saints and martyrs. I am also conscious of many hopes and expectations for the future. This is why I have chosen for my motto In Corde Iesu, In the
Heart of Jesus. I want to remind everyone, that it is Him alone we serve.
Jesus is our Lord and Master, and it is from his Heart that over the weeks and months to come, we wish confidently to draw the love, strength and creativity we need, to face the challenges ahead, assisted by the prayers of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and of St Edmund of Abingdon.
Now this Thursday, 11th October, Pope Benedict is going to inaugurate a Year of Faith and this Year of Faith, with the new evangelisation it occasions, will be absolutely central to everything we do, as a diocese, in 2013. The Holy Father has chosen this Thursday because it is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in 1962, which Good Pope John called, in order to safeguard the truths of faith and to present them in a manner more accessible to people today. The 11th October is also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Blessed John Paul II, as a sure and authentic reference-text for teaching and preaching. Faith is truly today¹s issue: belief in God, the purpose of existence, what happens when we die, the meaning and moral value of human life, the role of religion in a secular and pluralist culture, the relationship of faith and science, and
the difference that being Catholic makes. The Year of Faith will raise all of these issues, and many more besides.
Let me say a word about Faith. Faith is a most precious gift from God, the doorway to eternal happiness. It is the movement of the Holy Spirit in our heart, opening the eyes of our mind, and inviting us to accept and believe the Truth God has revealed to us, as proposed by the Church. We use the word ‘faith’ in two ways: as both an objective reality (‘The Faith’), meaning the mighty deeds God has done for us and the saving truths and doctrines he has revealed, and also as a subjective response (‘Our Faith’), the human act, by which we love God in return, choosing to follow his ways and to believe him. The Year of Faith will focus on faith in both senses of the word.
First, ‘The Faith’, what God has revealed: some suggestions. It would be good for all of us, priests and people, to attempt this year a systematic study of the Creed and the Catechism, receiving and learning the doctrines expressed therein, and then exploring their meaning and value for our lives today. It would be good if every church had a small bookstall with leaflets about aspects of the Catholic faith and its practice, and that we all made use of it. It would also be good, in parish newsletters, to draw attention to helpful websites and other resources. The diocesan Department for Pastoral Formation has proposed some splendid ideas in a helpful leaflet.
Moreover, I will be sending to our priests and deacons, a ‘Preachers Guide’, with suggestions for weekly homily notes, brief catecheses and questions for discussion-groups, together with a plan for the daily study of the Catechism.
Secondly, my faith as a response to Christ and his Church. It would be good this year, for our parishes and communities to help everyone deepen their faith, by arranging periods of Eucharistic Adoration, and advertising times
when the church is open for visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It would be good too for our schools to pray the Angelus at midday, recalling Mary’s response of faith and to encourage staff and students to say the ‘Apostles
Creed’, as on the Year of Faith bookmarks. Moreover, as individuals and as communities, we should also try to make our faith more public, that is, to give witness. For example, why not wear a crucifix or a religious symbol? Or invite a non-practicing friend to accompany you to Mass? Or make the Sign of the Cross, when you are out for a meal, and say ‘grace’ as a family? Why not install a rosary or devotional item in your car? Why not say ‘Thank God’, when someone tells you good news or ‘Please God’, when they tell you their hopes and aspirations? I am sure many of you do some of these things already.
In thinking about the Year of Faith, as with everything else we do, it is important to remember that we are never saved by a programme or a structure, but only by a Person, Jesus Christ, and, as his disciple, by a personal-passionate friendship with him. The Year of Faith will be a wonderful opportunity for us all to draw closer to him, to know our faith better, and to deepen its meaning and expression in our lives.
Over the next twelve months, I will write again about the Year of Faith, taking as a theme, the articles of the Creed. But meanwhile, in Mass today, as we listen to God’s Word and offer the Sacrifice of Christ, let us pray that this Year of Faith will lead us all to a real, life-changing encounter with Jesus, and so to receive the eternal life, love and happiness streaming from his Heart.
In Corde Iesu,
Bishop of Portsmouth
Bishop Davies’s pastoral letter:
My dear brothers and sisters,
Anniversaries serve as milestones along the path of life, dates which remind us of the great gifts of God. On Thursday the Catholic Church celebrates 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 as one of the greatest fruits (cf Porta Fidei n. 11) of the Council. We will be marking these anniversaries with a mid-day Mass at Shrewsbury Cathedral to which all are welcome. Pope Benedict, however, invites us to keep these two anniversaries not for a single day, but for an entire year. The Holy Father has called us to celebrate, a “Year of Faith” beginning on 11th October this year and ending on the Solemnity of Christ the King next year. This is not meant to be an exercise in nostalgia but an opportunity, in Pope Benedict’s words “to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” (Porta Fidei n. 4).
I am conscious that whenever I mention the Second Vatican Council, a significant part of every congregation is too young to remember this event of the early 1960s. It is, of course, difficult to encompass in a few words so vast an undertaking which gathered all the bishops of the world with the Pope in continuous prayer and meetings across the course of more than three years. And it is important that we do not confuse such a Council with the politics of a “church parliament” or with the short-lived optimism of a past decade. Pope John, now Blessed John XXIII, made clear that he had a lasting purpose in calling this Council: he desired above all that the assembled bishops would find ways of both guarding the truths of our faith, and teaching them more effectively amid the rapidly changing circumstances of our time.
Blessed John urged the bishops not to listen to “prophets of doom” who saw little hope for the Church’s mission in the contemporary world. He expressed the hope that the Council would be a new Pentecost, and confirm us all in faith and encourage us in our mission in the world. At the beginning of Advent, I will circulate a prayer card of Blessed John XXIII’s own prayer for the Council which beautifully expressed this hope: “O Holy Spirit, renew in our days your miracles as of a second Pentecost, “ Pope John prayed, “and grant that Holy Church, reunited in one prayer, more fervent than before, around Mary the Mother of Jesus, and under the leadership of Peter, may extend the kingdom of the Divine Saviour, a kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace. Amen” (Prayer of Pope John XXIII for the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council).
We can understand why Pope Benedict invites us to celebrate this anniversary of the Council’s opening by “rediscovering the joy of believing and enthusiasm in communicating the faith” (Porta Fidei 7). This is certainly what Blessed John XXIII and the bishops gathered in council desired. I hope this year will be an opportunity to open anew the Catechism of the Catholic Church; in it we find the riches of the Council’s teaching and of the Catholic teaching of all time. We must know our Catholic faith if we are to be able to enter into dialogue with our contemporaries on an increasing range of questions. To take one example: the Scriptures speak this Sunday of marriage in the Creator’s plan “from the beginning,” and we are reminded how even the identity of marriage has become a contentious issue in our society today. The Catechism of the Catholic Church together with its Compendium and the recently published Youth Catechism (YouCat) will surely help us address the many issues of our time and to give a clear, confident witness to the beauty of the truth. So this year we will look at new ways of opening up the Catechism. On the diocesan website a programme will be offered for each Sunday of the Year of Faith which can also form the basis for homilies or parish reflection.
I have also asked parishes to look at new ways of giving public witness to our faith during the course of this Year. The experience of Pope Benedict’s visit to our country continues to encourage us to give such public witness at a moment when faith is often being relegated from the public domain. I am very conscious, however, that the most important witness is already being given in your daily lives. May this year – marking the anniversaries of both Council and Catechism – help us in Pope Benedict’s words: “to profess the faith in fullness and with a renewed conviction” (Porta Fidei n.9).
With the assurance of my prayer for you,
Bishop of Shrewsbury