July 28, 2012 – What’s To Come

Though it may be a case of “too little, too late” for many of our farmers and gardeners, it was nice to at least get some refreshing rain this past week and a little break from the extreme heat.  Hopefully there will be more where that came from, although there appears to be some more hot, dry days ahead this coming week.  At our meetings and discussion groups the last couple of weeks, we have been praying a prayer for rain provided by the National Rural Life Conference.  Here is a link to this prayer:

www.toledodiocese.org/index.php/home/149-archived-news-releases/572-drought-prayer

There is also a short prayer for rain on the homepage of our website.

If you are even a casual listener or reader of Catholic material, you may have heard or seen a couple of terms floating around during the last year or so. One of those is “New Evangelization”, and the other is the “Year of Faith”.  To try to explain each of these in detail would take up much more space and thought processes than one blog will allow. So imstead I thought I would just begin with a brief introduction to each, and then as time goes along, and as we hear more and more about these things, we can get into more detail on each of them. As is no surprise I’m going to switch the topics around and talk about the Year of Faith first.

At certain times in Church history, popes have called upon Catholics to deepen their understanding of a particular aspect of the faith.  For example, in 1967 Pope Paul VI announced a year of faith which coincided with the 1900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul.  During that year Catholics were called upon to not only recall the sacrifice that these two saints made for their faith, but also to use their example as an inspiration to make their own sincere profession of faith.  Last year Pope Benedict XVI declared that a Year of Faith will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013.  October 11 of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  During this Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism in order to deepen the knowledge of their faith.

The opening of the Year of Faith will also coincide with a synod on New Evangelization.  A synod is a gathering of bishops from different areas of the world who meet with the pope to discuss the activity of the church worldwide.  This meeting is held to strengthen the unity between the bishops and the pope, and to provide counsel to the pope.  So, then, that leads us to the question of what the New Evangelization is.  Again, to explain it in detail would take a month of blogs, but in a nutshell, the New Evangelization is a call to each of us to strengthen our faith and belief in the Gospel message, and in turn to go forth to proclaim the Gospel.  The New Evangelization is focused on “re-introducing” the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith.  So you could say that the New Evangelization is a time of rediscovery.

We do not need to look far to see why there is a need for this New Evangelization.  According to a study done in 2008 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, only about 23 percent of Catholics in the United states attend Mass each week.  The most common reasons given by Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly are not the “controversial” issues such as the clergy sex abuse scandal, or the church’s teachings on abortion and contraception, but instead are reasons such as busy schedules and lack of time, family responsibilities, conflicts with work schedules, and a growing sentiment that missing Mass is not a sin.  The study also points to increased secularism, materialism, and individualism.

Secularism influences people to believe that religion is merely a private matter, and has no place in the public square.  Materialism causes people to hope that they alone can fulfill whatever needs they have.  And individualism squashes the belief that we are social beings who can only find true fulfillment in love for God and for neighbor.  The study also indicated that there is an erosion in our knowledge of the Eucharist and in the importance of setting aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day dedicated to prayer and rest.  The New Evangelization  tells us to “re-propose” the gospel to those who have drifted away from their faith.

So the next natural question would be “What is the link between the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith?  Well, they each offer us an opportunity to deepen our own faith and to strengthen our confidence in our ability to share the faith with others.  We are called by our Baptism to be disciples and to proclaim the Gospel.  They are both calls for us to experience God’s love and mercy through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  Evangelization is the basis of our Catholic identity.  Pope Paul VI wrote that “the Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  The bishops of the U.S. have expressed a sincere desire to welcome all inactive Catholics back to their place in the Church.  They wrote that “we want to let our inactive brothers and sisters know that they always have a place in the Church and that we are hurt by their absence – as they are … we want to help them see that, however they feel about the Church, we want to talk with them, share with them, and accept them as brothers and sisters.”

You will certainly be hearing much more about both these initiatives, here and elsewhere.  You can also go to the USCCB website and find a lot more information.  Here’s your link:

www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith/index.cfm

Particularly at this time when our religious freedom continues to be threatened and a very important election looms in a few months, we need to let our Catholic identity be known and to shine.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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