To accompany Christians’ worldwide on the journey of the Year of Faith – which he opened last week – the Pope announced that he would be interrupting his series on the Christian School of Prayer for now to concentrate on helping people deepen their understanding of why we believe what we believe, starting with the “the essential formula of faith”, the Creed.
The Holy Father arrived at this decision following the results of the questionnaire bishops around the world were asked to answer ahead of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation which is currently underway in the Vatican. The Pope highlighted some issues this revealed: a faith that is passive and private, rejection of faith formation, the rupture between faith and everyday life.
He said “Christians often do not even know the core of their Catholic faith, the Creed, so as to leave room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, without clarity on the truths to be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. The risk is not far off today of people building a so-called "do-it-yourself" religion. Instead, we should return to God, the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the message of the Gospel, to bring it into more deeply into our minds and our daily lives”.
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I will introduce the new cycle of catechesis, which will be developed throughout the Year of Faith that has just started and interrupt - for this period - the cycle dedicated to the school of prayer. With the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei I chose this special year, so that the Church would renew its enthusiasm to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, revive the joy of walking on the path that He has shown us, and witnesses in a concrete way the transforming power of the faith.
The fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is an important occasion to return to God, to deepen and live with greater courage one’s own faith, to strengthen membership of the Church, "the teacher of humanity," which, through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the work of charity leads us to encounter and know Christ, true God and true man. This is not an encounter with an idea or a life plan, but a living Person who deeply transforms us, revealing to us our true identity as children of God. Our encounter with Christ renews our human relationships, guiding them, day by day, to greater solidarity and fraternity, in the logic of love. Having faith in the Lord is not something that affects only our intelligence, the area of intellectual knowledge, but it is a change that involves life, all of our being: feelings, heart, intellect, will, body, emotions, human relationships. With faith everything really changes everything in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed, the truth of our vocation in history, the meaning of life, the joy of being a pilgrim towards the heavenly Kingdom.
But - we ask- is faith truly the transforming power in our lives? Or is it just one of the elements that that is part of our life, without being the determining one that completely involves it? With the catechesis of this Year of Faith we would like to go on a journey to strengthen the joy of faith, understanding that it is not something alien, disconnected from real life, but it is its very soul. Faith in a God who is love, and who came close to man, taking on his flesh and giving Himself on the cross to save us and open the gates of heaven to us once more, brightly indicates that the fullness of man is found only in love. Today we need to clearly repeat this, while the cultural transformations taking place often show many forms of barbarism, which pass under the sign of "conquests of civilization”: faith affirms that there is no true humanity except in places, gestures, in the times and manner in which man is motivated by the love that comes from God, it is expressed as a gift, it is manifest in relationships full of love, compassion, care and selfless service to the other. Where there is domination, possession, exploitation, commodification of the other for pure selfishness, where there is the arrogance of the ego closed in on itself, man is depleted, degraded, disfigured. The Christian faith, active in charity and strong in hope, does not limit, but humanizes life, indeed it makes it fully human.
Faith is welcoming this transforming message in our lives, it is accepting the revelation of God, which helps us know who He is, how He acts, what His plans are for us. Of course, the mystery of God is always beyond our concepts and our reason, our rituals and prayers. However, with the revelation it is God who communicates to Himself to us, who speaks to us of Himself, who makes Himself accessible. And we are enabled to listen to His Word and receive His truth. Here is the wonder of faith: God, in his love, creates in us - through the work of the Holy Spirit - the right conditions so that we can recognize His Word. God himself, in his will to manifest Himself to us, to enter into contact with us, to be present in human history, enables us to listen to and welcome Him. St. Paul expresses this with joy and gratitude: "And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in
you who believe "(1 Thessalonians 2:13).
God has revealed Himself in words and deeds throughout a long history of friendship with man, which culminates in the Incarnation of the Son of God and His mystery of death and resurrection. God has not only revealed Himself in the history of a people, not only has He spoken through the Prophets, but He has crossed heaven to enter the land of men as a man, so that we could meet Him and listen to Him. And from Jerusalem the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation has spread to the ends of the earth. The Church was born from the side of Christ, she has become the bearer of a new solid hope: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified and Risen Savior of the world, who sits at the right hand of God and is the judge of the living and the dead. This is the kerygma, the central and unsettling proclamation of faith. But from the beginning there arose the problem of the "rule of faith", in short, the faithfulness of believers to the truth of the Gospel, to which we must remain firm, to the saving truth about God and man to be preserved and passed on. St. Paul writes: "Through it [the Gospel] you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain"(1 Cor 15:2).
But where do we find the essential formula of faith? Where do we find the truths that we have been faithfully transmitted and which are the light for our daily life? The answer is simple: in the Creed, in the Profession of Faith or Symbol of the Faith, we reconnect to the original event of the person and history of Jesus of Nazareth, it makes concrete what the Apostle of the Gentiles said to the Christians of Corinth: " For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3).
Even today the Creed needs to be better known, understood and prayed. Above all it is important that the Creed is, so to speak, 'recognized'. In fact, knowing it, could only be an intellectual operation, while "recognizing" it means the need to discover the deep connection between the truths we profess in the Creed and our daily lives, so that these truths may truly and effectively be - as they always were - light for the steps to our living, water that irrigates the scorching heat of our journey, life that conquers certain deserts of contemporary life. The moral life of the Christian is interwoven in the Creed, in which it finds its foundation and justification.It is no accident that the Blessed John Paul II wished that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sure norm for teaching the faith and reliable source for a catechesis renewed at the sources of faith, be set on the Creed. This was to confirm and protect this core of the truths of faith, rendering it in a language that is more intelligible to the people of our time. It is the Churches’ duty to transmit the faith, communicate the Gospel, so that the truths of Christianity illuminate new cultural transformations, and Christians be able to account for the hope that carry (cf. 1 Pt 3:14). Today we live in a profoundly changed society even compared to the recent past and one that is in constant motion. The processes of secularization and a widespread nihilistic mentality, where everything is relative, have a crucial impact on the general mentality. So, life is often lived lightly, without clear ideals or sound hopes, in transient and provisional social and family ties. Above all the younger generations are not educated in the search for truth or the deeper meaning of existence that goes beyond the contingent, to a stability of affection, trust. On the contrary, relativism leads to not having any fixed points, suspicion and inconstancy cause ruptures in human relationships, and life is lived in experiments that do not last long, or shoulder any responsibilities. If individualism and relativism seem to dominate the mind of many of contemporaries, we can not say that believers remain totally immune from these dangers, with which we are confronted in the transmission of the faith. The survey promoted in all continents for the celebration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, has highlighted some: a living faith that is passive and private, rejection of faith formation, the rupture between faith and life.
Christians often do not even know the core of their Catholic faith, the Creed, so as to leave room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, without clarity on the truths to be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. The risk is not far off today of people building a so-called "do-it-yourself" religion. Instead, we should return to God, the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the message of the Gospel, to bring it into more deeply into our minds and our daily lives.
In the catechesis of this Year of the faith I would like to offer some help to making this journey, to take up once again and deepen the central truths of the faith of God, man, the Church, of all the social and cosmic realities, meditating and reflecting on the statements of the Creed. And I would like to clarify that such content or truth of faith are directly connected to our lives; they require conversion of existence, which gives life to a new way of believing in God (fides qua). Knowing God, encountering Him, explore the features of His face brings our lives into play, because He enters the deep dynamics of the human being.
May the journey that we are about to set out on in the year help us grow in faith and love to Christ, that we might learn to live, in our choices and daily actions, the good and beautiful life of the Gospel.
Note: the Pope use the word "enthusiasm" frequently in referring to living the faith as the encounter with an event, a living Person.