Why celebrate a Year of Faith?

2012-10-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) – In the fourth of a series of Vatican Radio editorials focusing on the Church and Europe, the head of Vatican Radio’s German Programme, Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, discusses why we celebrate a Year of Faith:

The Church has a new leitmotif, one that will last just over a year: from the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11th, to the Feast of Christ the King in 2013. There’ll be events, celebrations, conferences and encounters – all under the title “The Year of Faith”. When Pope Benedict XVI announced this initiative last October it was clear that, after the Pauline Year and the Year for Priests, the next would reflect the vast challenge of the New Evangelization.

The Year of Faith already has all the characteristics we usually associate with other major events: opening and closing celebrations, special highlights, its own logo, etc.
And it won’t just take place in the Vatican either. If all goes well, many local Churches will host their own events, encounters, celebrations, conferences and exhibitions, to mark this Year of Faith.

A theme year carries the same risks as any other important event, as World Youth Day organizers know only too well. Thousands of people come together, and the spirit of the gathering, the music and the special atmosphere of the event, often change those people and the way they feel. But then they go home, back to their everyday lives, and it’s hard for them to keep that spirit alive. Something similar could happen during the Year of Faith.

It’s in the nature of things for events to focus on a specific period of time. Faith, and everyday Faith especially, looks for something more. Faith needs time, testimony and transmission. Faith aims at transforming the faithful. The spirit of the moment, exciting as it may be, isn’t enough. The Year of Faith can’t be just another series of events.

So what can the Year of Faith be?

Pope Benedict told us on October 16th last year when he announced it.
To start with, he used a series of active verbs: give, conduct, strengthen, donate and, of course, announce. In his own words, the Pope wants to give new impulse to the Church. Later the same day, during his Angelus address, the Pope again stressed the purpose of the Year of Faith: it’s not an anniversary – like that of the Council, for example – it’s a source of nourishment, it’s an announcement. The Year of Faith is something active or, better still, it’s meant to reactivate the vitality of our Faith.

As an event, the Year of Faith could make an important contribution. The key-word is “impulse”. The celebrations and encounters, the liturgies and concerts, can’t give us the answers we so urgently need. But they can stimulate us to ask the questions we need to ask. That’s why even events are useful: they help us place leitmotifs in context.

The Year of Faith is a continuation of what the Synod of Bishops is starting in October in the Vatican. It’s a continuation of the Second Vatican Council: a renewing of the renewal.

It will do the Church good to spend a whole year focussing on the issue of announcing the Faith in our own time, knowing that we are all involved. That’s why we are celebrating this Year of Faith. Then we’ll have to apply it in our everyday lives – as always.

Fr Bernd Hagenkord SJ