When they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
– Acts 14:27
Earlier today myself and Br Stephen were privileged to attend the opening Mass for the Year of Faith, and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council, celebrated by the Holy Father. This Year of Faith was called for by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter of October 2011 Porta Fidei, with the threefold purpose of improving our profession, celebration and witness to our faith; crucially also reminding us that faith is not simply a set a propositions, but rather belief in and love of our Lord and saviour.
Today is in auspicious day for the start of the Year of Faith because it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in 1962. In this year of faith the Holy Father is bringing to our attention not only the documents of the Second Vatican Council, but he is presenting them to a new generation who have little care about the socio-political circumstances of the 1960s but do care deeply about the Church today. I would greatly recommend reading Porta Fidei as you begin the Year of Faith, one can see how this year brings together some of the most important themes of the Holy Father’s pontificate. How it can be an important opportunity for us all to grow in love of our Lord, for as OHF Augustine said, “The mind cannot love what it does not know.”
In his homily (the full text of which can be found here) today the Holy Father reminded us of the words of Bl John XXIII who convoked the Second Vatican Council, “What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively”. These words of Bl John XXIII should provide food for thought during this year of faith, as the Holy Father has invited us to re-discover (or perhaps for some simply discover) the documents of the Second Vatican Council, “This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them.”
During the Year of Faith the Holy Father seeks to deepen our relationship with our Lord, and to aid in this he has announced the details of special plenary indulgences available during this year. Full details of the promulgation can be found on the Vatican website, but the essence is that under the usual conditions a plenary indulgence will be available to the faithful who: 1) attend three sermons during a mission, or three lessons on the documents of the Second Vatican Council or Catechism; 2) each time they visit a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, or a cathedral church and there make a profession of faith in any legitimate form and invoke our Blessed Lady; 3) each time that, on days designated by the local Ordinary, they visit any sacred place participate in a celebration of the Holy Mass or Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the profession of faith; 4) visit the place of their baptism and renew their baptismal promises.
Two saints in particular seem particularly appropriate as patrons of this year of faith: St Norbert, and our Blessed Lady. The Holy Father reminds us that our Lady is the model and pattern of our faith, but we should also remember those words from the life of St Norbert, “Faith was the outstanding virtue of Norbert’s life, as charity had been the hallmark of Bernard of Clairvaux.” So during this year let us ask the intercession of St Norbert and our Blessed Lady, that they might increase our faith in our Lord, Master, Friend, Brother and sweet Saviour Jesus Christ.
By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion. Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him. With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact. Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution. With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha. By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart, she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit.
Porta Fidei, 13