The Year of Faith will terminate on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov.24. As it comes to a close, we should remember that this ought be a year of graces and blessings for not merely the whole world, but for all of us individually.
Maybe up to this point we have not made a strong enough effort to live out and adopt the graces available to us this year. Perhaps we have stumbled and need to try again. In these times we should remember, as all professional athletes know, that there are upsets, changes and even shocking results.
A cross-country runner can be lagging behind almost the entirety of the race. However, if he turns it on full gear at the end, and breaks the tape first, the crown of glory is still his!
As athletes of Christ, why not put it on high gear in these last few weeks that God has so generously given to us? We will suggest five concrete practices to bolster our faith in this Year of Faith, as well as some good, practical readings to help you grow closer to God as you strengthen your faith.
Fervent Prayer. Father John Hardon S.J. made the observation that people who lost their faith were almost always those who had given up on their prayer life. Starting right now let us make the proposal to pray more and to pray better. Prayer is a matter of life and death. Hopefully the words of Saint Augustine can encourage you: “He who prays well lives well; he, who lives well, dies well; he who dies well, all is well!” Start with the prayers of the Church or the Liturgy of the Hours.
Study. Common sense teaches us that nobody can love what he does not know. How can we love Jesus and His Church, His Bride and Mystical Body, if we are ignorant? Porta Fidei, the Apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI, encourage frequent reading during this Year of Faith. Specifically, one can read the Documents of the Second Vatican Council and of primary importance are The Dogmatic Constitutions— Dei Verbum, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Gaudium Spes, and Lumen Gentium. Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They can all be found online for free, so you can start today.
Partake of the Eucharist. Pope Paul VI in his pontificate wrote a short but brilliant document entitled “Mysterium Fidei”. It is a brief but clear explanation of the Mystery of Faith, that is the Most Holy Eucharist. Many have never been taught properly what the Eucharist is; others have lost belief in the Eucharist; still others have only the vaguest idea of what Mass and the Eucharist means.
St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Maronite monk and modern saint, once asked permission of his superior to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at twelve noon. The reason for the noon-day Mass was that he wanted to spend the entire morning preparing for Holy Mass; then the afternoon and evening he wanted to spend in giving thanksgiving to God for his Mass and Holy Communion.
St. Charbel is just one of many saints, modern and ancient, who show us the importance of time with the Holy Eucharist. Use him as an example of spending some time contemplating and partaking of God’s glorious mystery.
Share Your Faith With Others. From our baptism, we are all called to be missionaries and ambassadors of Christ. Blessed Pope John Paul II stated unequivocally that the best modern mission territory is right in the midst of cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Rome, Paris, Buenos Aires, and Manila. Within the boundaries of these metropolises, there are many who have little faith, a confused faith, or who have even lost their faith.
The last few words of the book of Jonah perfectly summarize our modern cities,“These people do not know the difference between their right hand and their left hand.” Also, Father Benedict Groeschel expressed it wryly: “Many today do not know the difference between a Sacrament and a bicycle pump!”
As you learn about your faith, share it with others. As Our Lord said, “Let your light shine before others so that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.” In the buying and selling of material things we may become poorer but when you share your faith with somebody, you will find that the person you share with is enriched and your faith also grows. You are giving but also receiving when you share your faith.
Trials, Tribulations, and Suffering will strengthen your faith. The letter of Saint James starts off with strong words on another paths God sometimes employs to elicit faith in His beloved children— through the fire of trials and tribulations and suffering. Let us meditate on the words of the Apostle: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”(James 1:2-3).
The best of Teachers is God, who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that we tend to laziness, sloth, complacency and the easy life. That being the case, as a loving but firm Father, He must at times kick us and shake us through trials to wake us up from our spiritual lethargy. That is why He sends us various trials of various types and in unexpected times. If you honestly and, with utmost humility, look back in retrospect in your life you will most likely notice moments of trial and great pain, but also how God possibly used these painful moments to bring you closer to Him.
Finally as the Year of Faith draws closer to its conclusion let us turn to Mary. Among the many sublime titles that the Church gives to Mary is “The woman of faith.” May her prayers strengthen our faith in Jesus, the Church, the Eucharist, and our hope for eternal life. Amen.