by Isabella R. Moyer
Year of faith resolutions embrace optimistic spirit
The beginning of a year is a traditional time for resolutions. With the start of the Year of Faith, dioceses around the world are offering special faith formation programs and study groups, acknowledging the twofold work of the new evangelization. We are called to reach out to those who no longer feel a part of the Catholic community. We also acknowledge that we must first re-evangelize ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.
What do you need to nourish your own faith? What practical steps can you take in this coming year to rekindle the joy and passion in your spiritual journey? The answer will be different for each of us. Here are my Year of Faith resolutions.
First on my list is a desire to truly embrace the optimistic spirit of
Blessed John XXIII. I, too, am weary of the prophets of doom in our midst,
present on both sides of the ideological divide in our church.
I am tired of pronouncements about the sinful laity who have succumbed to the secularism and materialism of the world. Too often these condemnations come from the mouths of men who are enjoying more than their share of the privileges and luxuries of life.
I am also tired of the righteous fingers of blame pointed at the “dissenters” in the church who refuse to obey blindly or to follow meekly. Many of these “dissenters” are sincerely seeking a faith and a church that is more genuine, honest and transparent.
I am tired of the liturgical niggling and even more tired of the spirit of imposition used to enforce uniformity in our worship.
But, I am just as weary of women and men who see nothing good in the Catholic Church. Their own disappointments and anger blind them to the moments of grace that are unfolding before us. Online discussion boards are full of regular commentators who rail against the sins of the church regardless of the topic being addressed. Their pessimistic energy does not energize. Vitriolic anger that avoids the hard work of pondering thoughtful, concrete solutions has no value.
So, how can I remain optimistic amid the pessimism? Some folks just avoid the news and any controversies whether in the church or the world. I can’t do that. I’m a self-professed church geek and news junkie. I’d like to say that I love the Catholic Church, warts and all, but I can’t. I love the church, yes, but the warts bother me. What I can do is choose how much energy I expend on reading and writing about the warts. My gut usually tells me when it’s time to intentionally re-focus on the core of our faith.
At the centre of it all is a person, the person of Jesus Christ, God who took on our flesh and became one of us. At the heart of our faith is our relationship with a loving God. We are invited into this relationship by loving God and loving each other. We can learn all the theology in the world and still not grasp the simplicity and awesomeness of this message. This is where joy and passion are grounded.
This does not mean that theology and catechesis is not important. Far from it! We need to understand what it is we believe so that we can better share the truths of our faith. Faith formation is vital. But, so is prayer. In the silence of prayer, the practical knowledge of the mind is moulded by the emotions of the heart, nudging us to turn faith into action. My Year of Faith resolutions must include seeking this silence in prayer, nourishing and nurturing optimism with the Word of God.
I also resolve to learn more about the experience of Vatican II. This might include re-reading the documents, but I also want to seek out the personal stories. My last column described the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict as my Vatican II heroes. I want to read about more Vatican II heroes and hear their voices for they give me inspiration and hope. I want to chat with family and friends who lived through those heady, post-conciliar days. What was it like for them as Catholic families, priests and religious?
I want to connect with those who believe that the spirit of the council is not waning or even dead but is still alive today, ready to be deepened and passed on to future generations.
My own lack of commitment to resolutions is well-known among family and friends. New Year’s and lenten resolutions barely last a day before they are broken. I’ll be heading to Rome next month and plan to re-visit the tomb of Blessed John XXIII, my favourite spot in St. Peter’s Basilica.
I will ask the Good Pope to pray with us and for us that his spirit of optimism may guide us all in this Year of Faith and beyond.
Moyer is a Catholic blogger (http://catholicdialogue.com) who lives with her husband David in Neepawa, MB. She is president of the International Organization of Marianist Lay Communities, a canonically recognized, private association of the faithful whose charism promotes a Marian model of church that is inclusive, egalitarian, participatory and concerned with social justice.