Yesterday, October 16, at Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI made a momentous announcement: the Church will be celebrating a “Year of Faith” that will kick off a year from now: it will begin on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and will last until November 24, 2013, the Feast of Christ the King. The Pope explained: “It will be a time of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in Him and to proclaim Him with joy to the men of our time.”
An interesting fact: the opening of the “Year of Faith will also coincide with the celebration of Papa Luciani’s 100th birthday on October 17, 2012.
The original “Year of Faith,” called by Paul VI in 1967 to mark the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul, was important to Albino Luciani, then bishop of Vittorio Veneto. He gave his priests a suggested program for it in September 1967. An excerpt:
. . . Try to have your faithful live the “Year of Faith” by speaking to them with enthusiasm about the Word of God, Jesus, and the Church more than about errors. And don’t be satisfied when your listeners are convinced: once they are convinced, they must act, they must act! Like Paul, strive so that “the word of God may make progress and be hailed by many others” (2 Thes. 3:1). Show by ardent words and actions, with a pure and charitable life, that you are “racing to grasp [Christ] since you have been grasped by Him” (cf. Phil. 3;12). When you talk about the Church, say that Christ loved her and “handed himself over for her. . . to sanctify her. . . in order to present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle. . . that she might be holy and without blemish” (cf. Eph. 5:25 27).
The Year of Faith also means shedding light on the faith. Now, faith is saying “yes” to God, clinging to Him with our whole spiritual being and making our own the truths which He has revealed to us and set before us by means of the Magisterium of the Church. Explain it to the faithful: this “yes” is an act of loving trust in God and at the same time an acceptance of His truths. We do not believe because we like these truths or because they are convenient to us, or because they are in agreement with scientific data or the fashion of the day, but because they have been revealed by Him who loves us and neither can nor will deceive us. If it were not for Him, we would not believe.
The Apostles and their successors, Pope and bishops, willed by Christ as official teachers of the Faith, are not in that position as masters, but simply as servants of the Word of God; they safeguard it and explain it without adding or taking away anything from it. Accepting and venerating their teaching is the means ordinarily necessary to arrive at the true Faith and the best way to be members of the Church. (Opera, vol. 4)
Still a wonderful program, more than 40 years later. I will also note that Papa Luciani wrote this letter to his priests in answer to a request from some of them that he expound on the errors that were rampant in the Church after the Council. Luciani did write about some of these errors, but stressed throughout that the best exposition of the faith was a positive one. I may have more about this little work, which he called “Something Less than a Syllabus,” later on. It is a really fascinating exposition, with a great deal of good advice for priests on how to handle teaching sensitive subjects in the faith.
Today is also Papa Luciani’s birthday – he would be 99 if alive now. This is a great time to announce that along with several other people I am planning some special events here in New York in connection with his centenary next year. I will be more specific later on. So keep checking for updates.