While most people began the new year on Jan. 1, Catholics ushered in a symbolic new year three months ago on Oct. 11, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Oct. 11 start date is significant, Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert adult faith education director Michael Averyt explained in offering his interpretation of the Year of Faith.
When Pope John XXIII opened the council on Oct. 11, 1962, “one of the concerns, if not the chief concern, was finding a way of articulating the faith in the current circumstances,” Averyt said.
That was a time when reason was widely seen as dismissing of faith -- something that calls to mind the world of today.
“That was a false dichotomy,” Averyt said. “Reason and faith were not opposed to each other, so they needed to get back into dialogue again.”
For Catholics today, the Year of Faith calls to mind not only reason and faith, but it also makes a call to action for Catholics to consider broader ideas around faith.
“For many Catholic people, they’ve lost the connection between faith and life,” Averyt said.
“What’s happened to religion … is that sometimes people forget the connection between truth and the way it’s lived in a person’s life, or that it affects the way a person leads their life.”
The relationship with God always has to be primary in one’s life, he clarified.
“Sometimes religion becomes a matter of culture, and one does it because that’s what the Christian gentleman, the Christian lady, does, rather than out of conviction,” he said.
Sometimes religion becomes a matter of culture, and one does it because that’s what the Christian gentleman, the Christian lady, does, rather than out of conviction. - Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert adult faith education director Michael Averyt
Doing something because the Bible or someone from the church tells you to isn’t symbolic of faith.
“The church asks about anything that we do -- is this truly loving? Is it loving to God? Is it loving to our neighbour? Is it loving to creation? Is it loving to ourselves?
“That’s where some people, and indeed some teachers, have failed to point out that connection. If we are truly loving, there are some things we would not do, and if we are loving there are certain things that we do do out of response of gratitude.”
The teachings of the Bible, he said, “point out to us what loving conduct is.”
The underlying idea of faith is impossible to explain without metaphors, he said, because it’s “not something that you can put under a microscope or use rational discourse to explain. It’s something beyond that … It’s like trying to describe love, or the experience of being in love -- one just cannot explain.”
The Year of Faith isn’t just about reminding people as to the importance of faith, but for people to examine their faith.
“Am I really clued into God’s love, and do I realize where it’s active, and do I really respond to it? Do I take it seriously, or is it just habit with no depth? Is it superficial?” Averyt asked.
The Year of Faith will conclude on Nov. 24, after which time Pope Benedict XVI has yet to name an official “year.”