To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, and also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI has invited the Church to observe a special “Year of Faith” from October 11, 2012, to November 24, 2013. The image for this year is the “door of faith,” the title of the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, in which the Pope announced the “Year of Faith.” The image is based on Acts 14:27, where Paul and Barnabas “called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” This “door of faith,” Pope Benedict writes “is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that last a lifetime” (Porta Fidei, 1).
This will not be the first time a Pope has proclaimed a “Year of Faith.” Pope Paul VI did so in 1967 to commemorate the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Pope Paul saw it as an opportunity for the entire Church to make “an authentic and since profession of the same faith,” in a way that was “individual and collective, free and conscious, inward and outward, humble and frank” (Petrum et Paulum Apostolos, 196-198).
The 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” will begin with in Rome with the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This meeting will focus on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” As we all know, in the traditionally Christian West we find ourselves in a new situation regarding the practice and passing on of the faith. For this reason, there is a need for a “new evangelization.” This term was used by Blessed Pope John Paul II, speaking to the Bishops of Latin America in 1983, when he invited them to accept “a commitment, not of re-evangelization, but rather of a new evangelization, new in its ardor, methods, and expression.” All the various continental assemblies that were held in connection with the Jubilee Year 2000 dealt with this concept of “new evangelization.” Thus, for example, addressing the Church in Europe in the aftermath of the Jubilee, John Paul wrote in 2003, “Europe today must not simply appeal to its former Christian heritage: it needs to be able to decide about its future in conformity with the person and message of Jesus Christ.”
We all also know that the situation in the United States, while different from that of Europe, also presents very serious challenges for Christian faith and Catholic practice, a new context which accordingly calls for a “new evangelization.”
Responding to the situation he saw in the United States in the 19th century, Servant of God Isaac Hecker founded the Paulist Fathers for the mission of evangelizing America. The “fundamental idea of the Paulists,” Hecker wrote in the 1870s, “is the idea of organizing the practical side of the Church in view of the needs of the age and the triumph of religion, for the greatest expansion of the ideal Christian life possible. What is the ideal Christian life? It is human nature in its entire force, sanctified and transformed by Christianity.”