Pope Benedict XVI has launched the Year of Faith in the midst of the Synod of Bishops, which is addressing the topic of the New Evangelization. Meanwhile all of this is happening within the context of the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. So we have (1) a Year of Faith launched by the Pope, while (2) a synod of the world’s Catholic bishops considers the New Evangelization and (3) we begin the celebration of Vatican II’s 50th anniversary. As we often say by way of understatement at Ignatius Press, “There’s a lot happening!”
The New Evangelization is focused on re-evangelizing former Christian cultures and people from Christian backgrounds. But it by no means requires us (1) to exclude the unchurched or others who haven’t heard the Gospel and (2) to ignore those of us who are “churched”. Everybody needs to be evangelized. Some of us need to encounter the Gospel for the first time. Some of us need to re-encounter it, to be brought back to Christ. And some of us need a deepening of our faith, what Pope John Paul II called “the enrichment of faith”.
The latter point was, in John Paul II’s view, very much what Vatican II was about–the enrichment of Catholics’ faith so that they would be more deeply what they are called to be as members of the Church–a deepening of communion with the Triune God in faith, hope, and love and with one another in Christ. That deepened communion would, in turn, lead to greater faithfulness in mission to the world–in bringing others the opportunity for communion with God and with one another. This is why, among other reasons, Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, describes the Church as “in Christ, a kind of sacrament, a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the human race” (LG 1).
It is, then, absolutely fitting that the Year of Faith for the Church would be launched in connection with the beginning of the anniversary of Vatican II and with the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Part of our success in renewing our faith this year will be getting right the Second Vatican Council. To that end, the Holy Father has called for a renewed study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in many ways a “compendium of the Council”.
Probably one of the most innovative approaches to the Year of Faith is that taken by FlockNote. They’ll help you read the Catechism in a year. Find out more here.
Meanwhile, you can read the Holy Father’s statement launching the Year of Faith at Whispers in the Loggia. And you can read the beginning of his general audience catechesis on Vatican II here and his remembrance of the openning of the Council here.