This is an excerpt from a homily given at Holy Rosary Cathedral Oct. 7 for the opening of the Year of Faith and the presentation of stewardship awards.
Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: "Mother Church rejoices." With these words, on Oct. 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, that "great grace bestowed on the Church in the 20th century."
Now, 50 years later, on this glorious feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, under whose protection and guidance our archdiocese is placed, we once again rejoice, for we are opening the Year of Faith in our local church.
Now, for us, is the "favourable time" to entrust ourselves more completely to the God Who loved us to the very end in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for our salvation.
But why this Year of Faith? And why now? On one hand, it commemorates the golden jubilee of the beginning of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, both of
which have been inestimable graces for the People of God.
Yet on the other hand Pope Benedict XVI also has something else in mind. As we know, in our families and communities the gift of faith given at baptism "risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the Church today."
As Pope Benedict has said, he has proclaimed a "Year of Faith" to "give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, friendship with Christ that gives us life in fullness."
This year now beginning is summoning each of us to a renewed conversion to Christ and to a deeper friendship with Him, the one Saviour of the world. This Year of Faith, then, is giving us, together with the whole Church, the opportunity to "recall the beauty and centrality of the faith and to reinforce it and to deepen it at the personal and the community level."
We shall strengthen our own, sometimes feeble, faith by witnessing to it more courageously and sharing it more generously with others.
For the next three weeks, a representative group of bishops, accompanied by consecrated men and women and lay faithful, will be meeting in a synod, a gathering called by the Holy Father to discuss the timely topic of "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."
This synod coincides with the opening of the Year of Faith and has set the agenda for one of the ways in which the Archdiocese of Vancouver will unite itself with the universal Church during the coming year.
As the Holy Father said today, "The Church exists in order to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ's command, His disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere."
Repeatedly we have seen that in various periods of history the Lord has given a renewed dynamism to the Church's evangelizing activity. In our own time and place, I believe the Holy Spirit is nurturing a new effort to announce the Good News here in our archdiocese.
For us in British Columbia, "the new evangelization is directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life."
Our task is once again to open wide the door of faith for members of our families and communities who have wandered away from the practice of the faith into which they were baptized. By the joyful witness of your life in Christ, your welcoming attitude, and your kindly invitation, you stand at the door.
You are there, helping them to see again the beauty of living life to the full, of rediscovering a taste for the word of God in the busyness of their lives, and of a desire for the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist, the very Bread of Life, where the Lord Himself is waiting for them.
Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: "Mother Church rejoices." The Church in Vancouver rejoices, and on this Thanksgiving weekend gives thanks to the Lord for the graces bestowed upon us: above all the gift of our faith and our mission to share the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ.
As we begin the Year of Faith, let us place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary. With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that He may illumine our minds and embolden our wills to make this year fruitful for our families, our parishes, the whole Church, and ourselves. Amen.