For many Catholics, the last several months have been something of a whirlwind. Pope Benedict had brought us deeply into the Year of Faith, which many parishes and dioceses going above and beyond in their participation (like ours here in Bismarck). And then Pope Benedict resigned in the middle of Lent, making way for the election of Pope Francis, who’s left most of us trying to keep our breath catching up. And he has continued the Year of Faith. Tweeting about it just tonight, in fact. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Pope Benedict called the Year of Faith for many reasons, including providing an opportunity to understand and interpret the Second Vatican Council rightly, to further the New Evangelization, and to deepen understanding of the structure and content of the Faith (cf. Porta Fidei 4-5).
These things are great; looking at them, they’re largely intellectual. Which, being a University professor, I think is great. But there’s more than that. There’s the personal, existential dimension. In Porta Fidei 6, Benedict wrote that the Year of Faith is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world.”
Bracing stuff. How?
Tonight, today for him, Pope Francis tweeted the following:
Singulis diebus huius Anni fidei aliquid operibus exsequi studeamus quo Iesus Christus melius cognoscatur.
— Papa Franciscus (@Pontifex_ln) July 13, 2013
OK, now in English:
In this Year of Faith let us aim to do something concrete every day to know Jesus Christ better.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 13, 2013
I’ve been slothful and indolent. Part of that is a weird illness that used to be a sinus infection and has morphed into something phantom that my physician can’t see but I assure you is There, part of it is the (lack of) rhythms of summer. And so I went whining to my spiritual director.
Whoops. I was told, gently but firmly, either you do it or you don’t.
Sometimes, I think, Christians get frustrated when they’re told to do something real but nebulous–to grow in grace, develop a deeper relationship with Christ, be joyful (Jawohl!), etc.–without being told how.
And that’s part of the reason I became Catholic. We have wonderful “hows”, rituals and practices to put us in a place mentally, physically, spiritually, where the Spirit has space to work. Rosary, adoration, contemplation, lectio divina, singing, chanting, liturgy of the hours, the Angelus, novenas, fasting…
But intentionality matters. You have to do it. And so Francis has told us to do something to put ourselves in deeper touch with Christ as part of the Year of Faith. If the Year of Faith is merely a matter of programs, well… The Year of Faith, to succeed, to matter, must be a matter of transformation, transformation of those of us individuals who make up the Church.
If you won’t take it from me or Francis, perhaps St. Yoda will make it clear; I couldn’t help but think of this clip after that most recent meeting with my spiritual director:
Do or do not; there is no try. Do something concrete. What will you do?