By Celine Klosterman
NEWTON — This Year of Faith invites Catholics to deepen their relationship with Jesus and become stronger witnesses and evangelizers, Bishop Martin Amos and Father Nick Adam told about 100 people at Sacred Heart Church June 23.
Fr. Adam, dean of the Grinnell Deanery, offered the homily during a Grinnell Deanery vespers service celebrating the Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012, and ends Nov. 24, 2013. After the service, Bishop Amos spoke on the Year of Faith and took questions on how Catholics can better understand and share Catholicism.
When Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith, “he said that its purpose was to serve as ‘a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one savior of the world,’” noted Fr. Adam, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell. “In making his announcement, Benedict also noted that the first day of this Year of Faith would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and at the same time, the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In light of those two historical anniversaries, he therefore encouraged us to again read and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and, in addition, the contents of the Catechism so that we might not only grow in our faith, but also then share it more readily with others.”
In the United States, bishops have reminded Catholics to be grateful for freedom of religious expression, Fr. Adam said. But “they have also been reminding us that the values and principles that are inherent in our religion are currently being threatened.” Legalized abortion, same-sex marriage and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate show how “Catholic values are being discarded,” he said.
Thus, the bishops are encouraging Catholics to observe the Fortnight For Freedom campaign ending July 4. “May this Year of Faith as well as our Fortnight for Freedom be a time of true renewal and conversion,” Fr. Adam said.
Passing on the faith
Pope Benedict XVI’s letter announcing the Year of Faith opened with a reference to the “door of faith” (Acts 14:27), Bishop Amos observed. “Each generation has opened the door of faith to the next generation. We are not born with the faith; it is handed on to us” — often by family or friends.
The bishop said two Latin terms have been used to define faith: fides quae, or what you believe, and fides qua, the one in whom you believe — Jesus. “Fides qua without fides quae could result in emotionalism, but no real understanding of what Jesus is all about. Fides quae without fides qua can lead to heartless theological abstractions, academic knowledge without a sense of the Person we encounter each day.
“The Holy Father first wanted our generation to be re-enflamed, re-energized,” Bishop Amos said. But the pope also wanted “that like Paul and the first communities of faith, we would pass on the Catholic faith today.”
Pope John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization, which has three aspects: a mission to those who don’t know Jesus, our own growth, and outreach to those who have fallen away, the bishop said. These missions are the responsibility of all disciples, “especially the laity, since you live in the world.”
He spoke on three challenges Pope Benedict XVI outlined in 2008: secularism, materialism and individualism. “Secularism treats religion as a private matter instead of something that permeates everything we do,” the bishop said. “Individualism emphasizes the private relationship with Jesus at the expense of being a member of a redeemed community…. Materialism focuses on the 100 percent promised in this life at the expense of eternal life promised in the next.” All people are tainted by such challenges to some degree, he said.
But he commended parents, grandparents, teachers in Catholic schools and parish catechists for their work in passing on the faith.
Parishioners share concerns
During a question-and-answer session following Bishop Amos’ talk, a man suggested Catholics could use a review of the reason for practices such as tracing the sign of the cross on Massgoers’ foreheads, lips and hearts before the proclamation of the Gospel. The bishop agreed. “We had great opportunities during preparation for the new Roman Missal to study those things,” he said, including a Catholic Messenger series explaining the parts of the Mass. Faith formation is lifelong, and Catholics should take the initiative to research the answers to their questions, he said.
One man asked what the Church’s role is in politics. “I think our role is to put forth the Gospel message that applies to certain areas,” rather than come up with specific solutions, the bishop said.
Another man suggested the Church didn’t stand up boldly enough for life during the lead-up to the presidential election. “I have to be pastoral, but also firm,” Bishop Amos said. Church teaching appeared in bulletins and The Catholic Messenger during election season, “but we need to find more ways to share it.”
In response to a question about the priest shortage, Bishop Amos noted dioceses around the United States and Europe are facing the issue. Secularism, materialism and lack of family support for religious vocations are reasons for their decline, but “the positive thing I see is the quality of our people. Our newly ordained priests are spectacular.” And 12 men will soon be ordained permanent deacons, he noted.
A woman raised the possibility of the Church welcoming female deacons. “It seems there may have been female deacons in our history,” Bishop Amos said. “I think we need to find better ways for women’s voices and perspectives on decision-making committees, especially on the highest levels.”
Confessing some trouble evangelizing, a man asked how to respond to someone who claims the Church “hates gays.” Does a Catholic simply respond, “That’s not true?” Yes, Bishop Amos replied. He encouraged parishioners to read the U.S. bishops’ 1997 document “Always Our Children.”
For longtime Sacred Heart parishioner John McNeer, the bishop’s visit was a bright way to begin summer. “He imparted his wisdom, insight and humor, which he can do so well,” McNeer said. “I think we should all be grateful to have someone like him among us.”
Bishop Amos is visiting each of the six deaneries, or regions, of the Diocese of Davenport during the Year of Faith. The Iowa City Deanery’s celebration was Dec. 9. For information on the four future celebrations, visit www.davenportdiocese.org/lit/yearoffaithlit.htm.