Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(Last of a series)

27. Who is the Center of our proclamation?

What we proclaim is not a revealed book nor an ideology, not a doctrine nor a social cause, not some great human value nor an idea. The center of our proclamation is “before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God” [John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990, no. 18; cf. CFC, nos. 216-17, 220-22, 464]. He is our Lord and our Savior. Through his passion, death, and resurrection – the Paschal Mystery – he saved us from sin. This is why the Cross is the symbol of our faith.
Unfortunately aggressive secularism ignores our faith in Jesus and puts it aside to the margins of public life, or even rejects the faith. That is why we have to tell the story of Jesus, proclaim him as the Lord and Savior. We have to “Live Christ, Share Christ.” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, “Live Christ, Share Christ, July 23, 2012].

28. How should we proclaim our faith?

We proclaim our faith in many ways. We tell and teach others about our faith. Parents are the first teachers of the faith for their children. By teaching their children who God is, how to pray to God, what his commandments are, parents share their faith with them. Besides cooperating with God in giving and nourishing the physical life of their children, they also give and nourish their life of faith. We share our faith with others by providing material and moral support to those whose main task is to preach and teach the faith such as priests, religious, catechists, missionaries and other collaborators in the Church’s mission. But most of all we proclaim and share our faith with others by our life, by our witness of a good Christian life. In the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 2:42-47] many were daily attracted to the new faith by the faithful Christian life of the early followers of Christ. Ordinary day to day fidelity to the Lord’s law of love – ordinary holiness – is the most eloquent proclamation of our faith.

29. What kind of new evangelizers should we be?

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, new evangelizers have to be: persons who have mature faith “because they have encountered Jesus Christ, who has become the fundamental reference of their life; persons who know Him because they love Him and they love Him because they have known Him; persons capable of giving solid and credible reasons of life.” [Papal Address to the 64th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, May 24, 2012].

30. Who are our models of faith?

In the first place is our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the Woman of Faith, always obedient to the will of the Father and the constant faithful disciple of Jesus her Son [See CFC, nos. 155-59]. Despite not fully understanding the profound mysteries of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, she gave her obedience of faith to God. The “cloud of witnesses” of the faith is the multitude of Saints in heaven. Among them are recent men and women of holiness such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed John Paul II, Padre Pio, our own San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

31. What does the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod mean for us?

Pope Benedict XVI will declare Blessed Pedro Calungsod as Saint in Rome on October 21, 2012 and will add yet another Filipino to our models of faith. Like San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Pedro Calungsod is a lay martyr who gave up his life in an ultimate witness of his faith in the Lord Jesus. As a young catechist he was a teacher of the faith. He is a model for all Filipinos, especially for our Filipino youth, to be faithful to Jesus with love and courage till death.

32. What event does the Year of Faith and the canonization recall to Filipinos?

San Pedro Calungsod was a Visayan youth martyred in far away Guam 151 years after the Spaniards first brought the Christian faith to people in the Visayas. The first Holy Mass was celebrated on the island of Limasawa on March 31, 1521. San Pedro Calungsod is canonized in the Year of Faith which is only nine years away from the 500th anniversary of the faith of Filipino Christians. For this reason on the day of San Pedro Calungsod’s canonization on October 21, the Church in the Philippines “will embark on a nine year spiritual journey that will culminate with the great jubilee of 2021. It is a grace-filled event of blessings for the Church starting October 21, 2012 until March 16, 2021” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, 2012].

33. How shall we prepare for this great event - the 500th anniversary of our Filipino

The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines exhorted us to prepare for the 5th centenary of our Christian faith in the Philippines with a nine year “Era of New Evangelization.” The opening of the Year of Faith and the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod take place during the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, October 7 to 28, 2012. The Synod of Bishops explores the theme of New Evangelization. In view of the weaknesses of our faith and the negative influences of secularism on our Filipino culture, a New Evangelization is necessary in the Philippines. In fact 21 years ago PCP-II already envisioned a “new evangelization” or “renewed integral evangelization” for the Philippines [see Message of the Council to the People of God in the Philippines, in PCP-II Acts and Decrees, 1991, p. xcviii; see esp. nos. 186 – 201].

34. What is the New Evangelization?

The term New Evangelization “designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, December 3, 2007, 12], a situation which is due to the secular and materialist spirit. Pope Benedict XVI said that this new cultural situation has signs of excluding God from peoples’ lives and tries to marginalize the faith from public life (Benedict the XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, May 30, 2011). We have already noted that our faith has to be renewed. Our culture is now very much influenced by the secular and materialist spirit. Therefore, a New Evangelization is necessary, “new in its ardor, methods and expressions” [Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Post au Prince, 1983]. Such will surely renew both our faith and the Church.

35. What is our general plan for the Era of New Evangelization?

We need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of renewal that PCP-II and the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR, 2001) drew up. It is a vision of renewed integral evangelization towards a renewed Church. We may call it a vision of New Evangelization in the Philippines. It calls for a multifaceted renewal of faith, renewal of laity, clergy, religious, parishes, and renewal of mission. For this purpose, the NPCCR identified nine major pastoral priorities. These are: (1) Integral Faith Formation; (2) Renewal of the Laity; (3) Active Participation of the Poor; (4) The Family as the Focal Point of Evangelization; (5) The Parish as a Communion of Communities; (6) Renewal of the Clergy and Religious; (7) Youth as Evangelized and Evangelizers; (8) Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue; (9) Missio ad gentes.

36. How shall we address the Nine Major Pastoral Priorities of the Church in the
      Philippines during the Era of Evangelization?

For the nine-year era of New Evangelization to be fruitful, it is absolutely necessary to hold the Holy Eucharist as central so that the grace of the Eucharist would accompany all our evangelizing efforts. Prayer must accompany the New Evangelization. We need to realize that the journey of faith and discipleship begins with conversion, metanoia, a change of mind and heart. With these in mind, we shall dedicate each of the nine years of the Era of New Evangelization to one of the nine-major pastoral priorities. Thus:

2013 – Integral Faith Formation;
2014 – Renewal of the Laity;
2015 – Active participation of the Poor in Evangelization and
Social transformation;
2016 – The Eucharist and the Family – this year the International Eucharistic 
                        Congress will be held in Cebu;
2017 – Transforming the parish as a Communion and Communities;
2018 – Renewal of Clergy and Religious;
2019 – Active Participation of the Youth;
2020 – Ecumenism and Inter-Religious dialogue;
2021 -  Missio ad gentes.

37. What is the significance of Mission ad gentes for Filipino Catholics?

The final year, 2021, of the Era of New Evangelization will be the 5th centenary of the Filipino Christian faith. The focus will be on the mission of the Church ad gentes or the mission to those who do not yet know Christ. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, we are reminded that our faith is missionary. Recent Popes have pointed out that the Church in the Philippines has a “special missionary vocation” and is called in a special way to be a missionary “to the nations” – ad gentes, particularly to Asia [Pope John Paul II, to the Philippine Bishops in 19981; at the World Youth Day in 1995; cited by the CBCP Pastoral Letter, Missions and the Church in the Philippines, July 5, 2000]. This is so because the Philippines is the biggest predominantly Catholic country in Asia. Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the necessity of sharing our faith::  

…faith in God is above all a gift and mystery to be received in the heart and in life and for which we are to be always grateful to the Lord. But faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it will bear fruit; it is a light that must not be kept hidden, but illumine the whole house. It is the most important gift that has been given to us in our lives and we cannot keep it for ourselves” [Benedict XVI, Message for World Mission Day to be celebrated on October 21, 2012].

38. Do the Year of Faith and the Era of New Evangelization address burning issues
      confronting our society today?

Yes, they do. Our goal is a renewed faith and a renewed Church. This is a vision of a faith and Church engaged in the mission of integral evangelization. This mission includes the task of social transformation. As a renewed Church we have to be actively involved, through a renewed integral faith, in helping resolve the burning social issues of today such as corruption, poverty, the destruction of the environment, threats against human life and dignity, and other burning issues of our day. Most of our problems are due to the dichotomy between faith and life. A renewed faith, that includes the social implications of the Gospel, would certainly address the problems directly.  

39. Prayer for the Year of Faith

According to Pope Benedict XVI “Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in Baptism” [PF, no. 9]. Therefore, following the example of the early Christians we should recite everyday the Niceno-Constantinopolitan profession of faith:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,

(At the words, up to and including “and became man,” all bow)

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Reciting often the short traditional Act of Faith will also deepen our faith:

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
October 1, 2012

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