Today begins the Year of Faith, as declared by Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church. It is also the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, the event which prompted the Pope’s decision to call for a renewed commitment to faith.
This invitation does not apply to Catholics only. Regardless of your religion, or what you might think of religion, God is real. Faith is God’s gift to us – to see beyond the seen, to glimpse a world of purity, of beauty, perfection, and most of all love: complete, total and unconditional love. Personally I am taking the Year of Faith as a challenge and an opportunity.
So, what to do in the Year of Faith?
Keep a diary of your faith journey, or a prayer journal (just call it a diary if you are more comfortable with this). When you look back week to week or month to month, you can more easily see what is often unseen: where your faith has come, how your prayers may have been answered (heck, for me, I sometimes have to remember what I was praying for), and God at work in your life.
Pray. Ask God for the gift of faith. Ask him to strengthen and renew your faith and to lead you on the right path for your life.
- If you are new to this, start simple. Say the Glory Be. Or the Our Father. Or the Hail Mary. If you don’t know the words, make it up as you go along—God doesn’t mind. He’s just happy to hear from you.
- If you know and practice these prayers, take your prayer up a notch. Try Grace before Meals (or a meal). Check out the site Sacred Space. Read and reflect on the Catholic Daily Devotions guide. Join a prayer group that meets weekly or monthly.
Go to Church.
- For newbies (or used-to-be’s) who might feel strange about this: just go! Catholic churches can be an easy start because they tend to be anonymous (for better and for worse – but you can always introduce yourself if you want.). Go to Mass, sit and listen. At a minimum, as you pass a church, pop inside for a quick prayer and look around. Listen to your inner voice and try to hear God talking to you. God is always talking to us, encouraging us. And remember this: God is never discouraging. Never.
- For all you church goers out there: go more! Are you a Sunday duty attender? That’s okay, but to deepen your faith, find another Mass or service that calls to you. It might be a weekday morning (they tend to be shorter – everyone is on their way to work.) It might be an evening prayer liturgy, or the Catholic Adoration service. You know. It will come to you. Just try it at least once, and see what gifts your receive.
Read the Scripture. Yes – the Bible. It is the basis for Christian faith. The wisdom from the words of this book are beyond compare. The Bible is chock full of guidance and grounding. It is also a history of our civilization, and the source of many phrases we commonly use today (‘Go the extra mile’, ‘for everything there is a season’, ‘labour of love’…). And simply, the stories are great stories.
- Personally I find the New Testament much easier to understand, so you might want to start here, with the life of Jesus.
- To deepen your understanding, take a scripture study class. These are becoming much more common in Catholic communities these days (check on-line or in the bulletin), and are often abundant in other Christian churches.
Do Service. Put perspective in your life, and reach out to those who have less, physically, materially, or spiritually. This is as much for your good as for those you serve. Volunteer opportunities abound – do the one you’ve been thinking about. Feel free to start small.
For me today, I am attending the Angelus at my children’s Catholic school this afternoon. (The Angelus is a short prayer honoring Jesus and Mary.) The Church has been asked to ring their bells for three minutes to celebrate and witness our faith, our belief in God, and the beginning of this great year of renewal.
Our church is also celebrating with a liturgy and Adoration of the Eucharist this evening, which I plan on attending. I have never been to Adoration before, find the name a little hard to get used to, and don’t quite know what I’m getting myself into. But I am looking forward to it! I always grow in my faith through these services, traditions and the Sacraments. I love that about the Catholic Church. Fear not – whether Catholic, lapsed, not Catholic, etc. you can renew your faith – just ask God to help you.