Every year, the Pope meets with top ranking Vatican officials a few days before Christmas. But this is more than just the polite exchange of greetings for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Rather, it is an occasion for the Pope to reflect with his chief advisors on what he sees to be the challenges facing the world and the Church.
In his last meeting with the curia, on December 22, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the financial crisis that Europe is facing. He squarely acknowledged that this financial crisis comes from a more profound crisis in ethics. But Pope Benedict did not stop there. He courageously moved beyond the economic and ethical crisis to the root cause of what is happening. He said, “The essence of the crisis…is the crisis of faith…”
The Pope noted that, when people doubt God, they lose their confidence in each other. God is not at the center of many people’s lives. “Not only faithful believers but also outside observers are noticing with concern that regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing,” the Pope said. Truly, we are facing a crisis of faith that spills over into every aspect of life.
Recognizing the crisis of faith in our time, the pope refused to be an idle spectator, watching belief sunset over the sea of secularism. With the Apostolic Letter of 11 October 2011,
, Pope Benedict XVI declared the
Year of Faith
that we are in the midst of celebrating. This
Year of Faith
began on October 11, 2012, the 50
anniversary of the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council. This date also marked the 20
anniversary of the promulgation of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church
, given to the Church by Blessed Pope
John Paul II
Year of Faith
will conclude on November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ the King.
During this Year of Faith, we are called to return to the basics. Repeatedly during his pontificate, Pope Benedict has taught the Church’s focus is Christ. The Church’s main responsibility is coming to know better the person of Jesus Christ and then to make him known to the world.
Christian faith is not simply the acceptance of certain teaching. No! It is, first of all, an encounter with the person of Jesus who is Lord. This encounter is exciting. It is transformative. Jesus gives every aspect of our lives a new meaning and a decisive direction. In a relationship with Jesus, we commit ourselves totally to God. In his daily homily on May 14, 2013, Our Holy Father Pope Francis said in clear and unambiguous terms, “If you live life as a gift, you follow the path of Jesus. The only other option is the path of Judas, which does not include the fecundity of love.”
In today’s society, there is a strong emphasis on individualism. The individual has become, in many cases, the center of every decision. As a result, faith is more and more relegated to the private sphere. But this contradicts the very nature of faith itself. Giving ourselves over to God opens us to all others. In fact, the very act of faith that saves presupposes the Church. As the Second Vatican Council has taught, “God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people who acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness” (
It is precisely this communal aspect of faith as a relationship with God
within the Church
that our age needs to rediscover. An authentic faith can never be “my personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus, because faith comes to be given to me from God by means of a believing community which is the Church…” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 31, 2012). On May 8, 2013, our Holy Father Pope Francis, quoting Pope Paul VI, has, in his uniquely direct style, reiterated the same teaching. He said, “It’s an absurd dichotomy to think one can live with Jesus, but without the Church, to follow Jesus outside the Church, to love Jesus and not the Church.”
We receive faith from the Church. Our faith grows and matures as we profess the Church’s Creed and celebrate her sacraments. All true believers who have God as their Father will always have the Church as their Mother (cf. St. Cyprian,
. 6: PL 4, 519).