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The Year of Faith is an Invitation to Encounter the Risen Christ Anew and Become Missionaries

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 11th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Year of Faith is an invitation to each one of us to encounter anew the Risen Lord Jesus, find our home in the heart of His Church and say "yes" to his invitation into the Mission of the Third Millennium of Christianity as loyal sons and daughters of that Church. Let us together, following the successor of Peter, open the door, enter in, and witness the wonders of God anew.

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Thursday, October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI will lead the Catholic Church throughout the world through the Door of Faith and into a Year of Faith. This extraordinary opportunity for grace and renewal will continue until November 24, 2013. That is the last day of the Church year, the Feast of Jesus Christ the Sovereign King.

On October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict announced his intention to call the Year of Faith by releasing a letter entitled "The Door of Faith". (Porta Fidei) In this letter he wrote "The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church." The opening day was chosen to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the official release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As with everything this Pope does, the choice of the Image of a Door and the reference to the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament account of the missionary activity of the Church of the First Centuries, is packed with prophetic meaning and pastoral insight. First, the door. As with every door, it must be opened and one must walk through it in order to enter in. Clearly, Pope Benedict XVI sees our age as a new missionary age. He knows that the same Risen Lord who empowered the early Church is in our midst and opening the same door of faith. We must choose to respond.  

The chapter from which the Holy Father quotes details the spread of the Christian faith into the world of the First Millennium. It speaks of the heroic missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles. Upon their return they give their testimony o the Christians of the Church of Antioch. "They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith..."(Acts 14:27).

He is exercising his Petrine ministry by leading all of us through this Door of Faith into a new encounter with the Risen Christ in the heart of the Church. We need to be converted anew, re-catechized - and experience afresh the grace that comes from the Sacraments. Then, equipped to participate in the mission of the Church, we are being sent into the Third Millennium like Paul and Barnabus were sent into the First millennium. We can - we will - witness the same kind of miraculous results that Paul and Barnabas did in the First Millennium. That is if we allow the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue His mission through us. 

Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI's election I wrote an article quoting from Alisdair MacIntyre's book "After Virtue" : "It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the Epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages."

"Nonetheless, certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the Imperium."

"What they set themselves to achieve instead- often not recognizing fully what they were doing- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point."

"This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another-doubtless very different- St. Benedict."

I suggested that "another Benedict" was here in the person of Pope Benedict XVI. I am more convinced of it now. I suggested back then, "This will be a pontificate that emphasizes and vigorously contends for the truth; one that recognizes the loss of the soul of contemporary culture and proclaims the ever fresh yet ancient truths of classical Christianity to an emerging new paganism. This will be a prophetic as well as a pastoral Papacy. We will witness a resurgence of Christianity that is rightly "orthodox" in both faith and practice.

"Because of that, many will try to "claim" Benedict. Some, pining for the past, will watch for what they hope will be a return to some perceived pre-conciliar "purity." Others will try to squeeze the clarity of his commitment to the dignity and sanctity of every human life, his unwavering insistence on the unchangeable truth concerning marriage and family, and his love for human freedom into their particular political mold.

"However, he will not fit any political mold. He will not lead the Church backwards but rather forward to a future of hope and into a true and desperately needed reform. Under his leadership we will see new forms of Christian life and community emerging in an analogous way to what happened to the world at the time of St. Benedict."

"From those Benedictine monasteries, an entire monastic movement was birthed which led to the evangelization of Europe and the emergence of an authentically Christian culture. This led to the birth and flourishing of the academy, the arts and the emergence of what later became known as Christendom. One of the greatest hopes of Pope John Paul II, and of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger- now Pope Benedict, was for Europe to rediscover her Christian roots as it did at the time of St Benedict. Now we have "another Benedict" to lead the recovery and reform."

I continued "Pope Benedict XVI will surprise many, particularly in the area of ecumenism, reaching to heal the divide between eastern and western Christianity so that the "two lungs" of the full Christian Church can breathe together again and animate the entire Church so that she can become again the soul of the world."

"We will witness the beginnings of the coming full communion of the Church during his pontificate. We will witness the recovery of the authentically Catholic academy through the rebuilding of some institutions almost lost to the Church and the building of new ones. We will see the flourishing of good, solid theological and philosophical work alongside of a flourishing of the arts and human culture, led by the Church, as it has been in ages past. He will be like his namesake and help to bring the Christian influence back to Europe and beyond."

I believe this has already resulted from the extraordinary Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. He turned 85 years old on April 16, 2012. Some early observers indicated his age would make him some sort of caretaker Pope. His pace has demonstrated those observers were wrong. He has proven to be an indefatigable and tireless missionary of a Pope. He has continued the pastoral visits of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, with amazingly fruitful travels around the world. The youth of the world still flock to World Youth days and his genuine love for them - and they for him - is evident. He has pastorally and decisively dealt with serious matters concerning the need for a purification of the Church. 

He is exactly what he told us when he was when began his service, a "simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." Clearly, to this successor of Peter; it is not about him, but about the Lord whom he serves. His diminutive size and humble manner reveal the holy heart of a man totally given over to the Lord.   His encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and books show that he is a teacher and scholar of the highest order, yet able to communicate with simplicity and beauty because he is a man of deep prayer. He has given continual teaching to the faithful - including some of the finest hagiography in centuries - during his Wednesday Catechesis.

He made Church history when, on his own authority, he released of the Apostolic Constitution on Groups of Anglicans which has begun the healing of the divided Western Church. The fruits of these Ordinariates will be recounted by future historians as among the most important events in the Third Millennium of the Church. He has earned the great respect of Patriarchs and leaders of the Orthodox Church and is making progress toward some form of communion between Eastern and Western Christianity.

He has championed the rechristianizing of Europe and passionately promoted the New Evangelization of the Church - even establishing a new Pontifical Council on the New Evangelization. He has been a champion of the New Ecclesial movements and helped to ensure that they are rooted in the heart of the Church and received as gift for the missionary work of the Church in this hour.

He has doggedly defended the Christian roots of the West and religious freedom as a fundamental human right. He has courageously engaged the Islamic world on the ground of a dialogue in truth. He began the "Courts of the Gentiles" outreach engaging atheists and agnostics. Clearly, this is a missionary Pope. And, it looks like he is just getting warmed up.  Indeed, another Benedict is here, and the Church is truly blessed to have him at the helm of the Barque of Peter as she sails into the Third Christian Millennium.

The Year of Faith is an invitation to each one of us to encounter anew the Risen Lord Jesus, find our home in the heart of His Church and say "yes" to his invitation into the Mission of the Third Millennium of Christianity as loyal sons and daughters of that Church. Let us together, following the successor of Peter, open the door, enter in, and witness the wonders of God anew.

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