The Year of Faith | A Pastoral Letter from Bishop David Ricken

Bishop-Ricken-OfficeYOFOn Oct. 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI will open a "Year of Faith" for the church throughout the world. He calls upon each diocese to enter into this "Year of Faith" as a moment of great grace and a time of manifold blessing. This date also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which dramatically changed the Catholic Church and opened her to the gifts and the challenges of the world today.

Many of those documents of the Second Vatican Council have been guiding our church. They need to be further studied and incorporated into the life of the church. This date also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This volume has been a tremendous gift to guide all of the teaching efforts of our church for the past 20 years, and will continue to enrich us for many years to come.

The Year of Faith can be a time of great renewal, of getting back to the basics of who we are as Catholic Christians and followers of Jesus. It is a time to renew our relationship and our friendship with Jesus Christ and the church which is his body, and to recognize our responsibility to proclaim Jesus to others. We acknowledge during this year, our great need for God in our lives, our need for the gift of his word and of the sacraments which he has given to assist us on our way to eternity.

The Year of Faith is also meant to usher us into a deeper preparation for "the new evangelization," which is a fresh and new proposal of the Gospel to the world, person by person. It is a reclaiming of confidence in Jesus Christ himself as our own personal Lord and Savior and as the Savior of the world, and the king of the universe.

During this Year of Faith we are all called to readjust our priorities: to reschedule our lives; to put Christ and his word, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and penance back into the center of our lives and the weekly rhythm of our personal and family life.

The theme of the Year of Faith, (Oct. 11, 2012 – Nov. 24, 2013) is "The Door of Faith" (Acts 14:27). We are called, first of all, to open the door of our minds and hearts to that person who is ever knocking at the door asking to come in. He will never just open and enter on his own because "The Door of Faith" only opens from one side and that is from within. Jesus is knocking, asking you and me to open that door.

Diocesan Icon for the Year of Faith

Year-of-Faith-logo_2012-1Inserted with my column this week is a depiction of the front door of a church. You will notice that Christ is depicted in the stained glass window at the top of the door, offering to us the "chalice of salvation" filled with the gift of his blood. He is also beckoning us, at the same time as we open the door of our minds and hearts to him, to open the door of the church, to come and to share in the anticipation of the heavenly banquet, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

This will be our diocesan icon for the Year of Faith or our application (app) to enter into the year by returning to the church if you have fallen away; by returning to Sunday Mass every week if you have not been coming for some time; or to enter more deeply into the sacred liturgy if you have been coming, but only as a matter of routine.

You will notice at the top of the structure that the words "Eucharist and Sunday Mass" are inscribed. This is because the Sunday Mass is the "keystone" of the structure. Without the Eucharist and Sunday Mass, the whole structure will fall into disarray. You will also notice the stones of the structure have the various "parish focuses" which have been highlighted in my pastoral letter, "Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive."

For a period of over five to six years, we will be focusing on one or another of these focus areas in your parish and in the diocese. These will be ways in which we will be attempting to make the church a stronger witness in the world; to be a place of invitation to you to come every Sunday to be renewed by the word and the Eucharist; and to do your part to make Jesus Christ and the church more clearly and adequately explained and proclaimed in our world today.

The world needs Jesus Christ now more than ever. The world needs the church now more than ever.

Seeking Mary's Special Help

During this Year of Faith we are also begging the special help and assistance of the Blessed Mother. We are encouraged to ask for the assistance of the Blessed Mother and of at least one of the saints. During this Year of Faith we will go especially to our Lady, under the title of "Our Lady of Good Help," who appeared in this diocese in 1859. Her simple messages to Sr. Adele Brise instructed her to make a general confession (to renew her relationship with Jesus) and to teach the children the prayers of the church and the basics of the faith.

Sr. Adele was a great example of an evangelizer who made many sacrifices to teach the children and their parents to pass on the faith to the next generations. This apparition has been approved as "worthy of faith" and you can, with confidence, call upon "Our Lady of Good Help" to assist you this year.

Patron Saint for the Year of Faith

The saint I have chosen for us to focus on in this Year of Faith is St. Francis Xavier. He is the patron saint of the Diocese of Green Bay and of our Cathedral in Green Bay, which bears his title. He, too, was a good evangelist who won thousands and thousands of souls for Christ and baptized countless numbers of people in mission territories.

During the Year of Faith we are also encouraged to proclaim one or two special places as "places of pilgrimage." It is at these sites that you can receive special grace, sometimes called indulgences, to make a visit to a particular church or a particular shrine and re-commit yourself to Jesus Christ.

With this pastoral letter on the Year of Faith I am hereby publicly declaring that one of those pilgrim sites will be the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, and the other will be St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.

In order to receive these graces, one simply makes a visit to the shrine or to the cathedral. You can re-commit yourself to Jesus Christ, make a confession either during your visit or sometime before or shortly after, say a special prayer designated for that purpose, which will be available at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help and at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. Give all of your cares, concerns and worries to our Lord and to Our Lady of Good Help and to St. Francis Xavier.

Ask our Lord to help you to return to the simple and most fundamental values of faith. Ask him for the grace to clear away everything in your life which is not of him; to help assist your family to become stronger during this Year of Faith. Ask him to help you to be a bearer of good news for others in your life by "re-proposing" or introducing people to Jesus Christ as your best friend, by telling them all the good he has done for you.

Year-of-Faith-Prayer-Card_2012Accept the Invitation

Jesus is alive. Jesus is here. He is asking you to open the door of your heart and your mind to him, to welcome him. He is also asking that if you have known him before and your relationship has grown cold or seems distant, to renew that relationship during this year. Put first things first. Give God the first hours of the first day of the week by attending Sunday Mass. Put "first things first," and all else will fall into place.

May the graces of this Year of Faith fall upon each and every one of you. Enter it with energy. Enter it with zeal. Don't be afraid to live out and practice the principles of the Gospel and of the teachings of the church. After all, he is and this is, our way to salvation.

Special Year of Faith Prayer

I would encourage each and every one of you also to pray the special prayer for the Year of Faith in our diocese written by the Most Rev. Robert F. Morneau. You may want to cut this out and put it in your prayer book or on your refrigerator and pray this prayer every day.

May God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. David L. Ricken, DD, JCL
Bishop of Green Bay

Download the Year of Faith Prayer Card

CLICK HERE to download the Year of Faith Prayer Card for the Diocese of Green Bay

Year of Faith Resources

CLICK HERE to download Year of Faith logo

CLICK HERE for General Resources

CLICK HERE for Year of Faith documents from the Vatican

CLICK HERE for Electronic Year of Faith resources -- Apps/CDs/Podcasts/Videos/Websites