Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades opens the Year of Faith
By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades opened the Year of Faith at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Oct. 11 saying, “We need this Year of Faith. We need the New Evangelization. I would say that it is an urgent need. We need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church.”
The faithful filled the cathedral to capacity for the Thursday evening Mass, many of whom were there to gain a special plenary indulgence that was offered. A combined high school choir from Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers added to the beauty of the celebration.
“Today, 50 years since the opening of Vatican II and 20 years since the promulgation of the Catechism, we begin a Year of Faith,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Pope Benedict XVI invites us all and Catholics throughout the world to a reflection and rediscovery of the faith. He invites us to discover anew the truth, power and beauty of the faith.”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the study of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church as great sources of knowledge and inspiration for the faithful.
“The Catechism is, I believe, one of the greatest fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which John Paul II called the ‘great grace bestowed on the Church in the 20th century,’” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily. “I encourage all to use the Catechism, to read, study and reflect on the faith that it explains.”
He said the Year of Faith is a wonderful opportunity for all to grow in the knowledge of the precious gift of the Catholic faith.
Referencing the urgency for the need of the New Evangelization, Bishop Rhoades noted,
“Only 25 percent of Catholics in our country attend Sunday Mass. There is a secularizing trend in our culture that fosters a mentality in which God is completely or partially left out of life and people’s consciousness. Secularism has even entered the Christian life and is manifested in an attitude of relativism, especially regarding issues of morality.”
“We need only think of the diminished respect for the sacred gift of human life and the terrible violations against the life and dignity of human beings created in God’s image and likeness, the most vulnerable being those waiting to be born,” Bishop Rhoades added. “We need only think of the relativism that seeks to justify the re-definition of marriage. There are so many cultural forces growing in our society today that are inimical to the faith we cherish.”
Bishop Rhoades quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who in Erfurt, Germany, last year posed the question, “Does man need God, or can we live quite well without him?” Pope Benedict then said, “The more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart, and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life. A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need Him.”
Bishop Rhoades said this gets to the heart of the faith.
“Our faith is the Good News, the Gospel, not just any piece of good news, but ‘the’ Good News,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It is the only answer to the insatiable thirst of the human heart. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of profound joy and of radiant truth. It is the power that transforms us, that even transforms the most difficult human experiences: suffering and even death. The fundamental truth is that God has opened his life to us! This is at the heart of our faith.”
Faith is a gift of God, a grace, the bishop said. “Yet we are only able to experience this grace to the extent that we accept it within ourselves as a gift by which we seek to live. It consists not only of assent to the truths of revelation that we recite in the Creed, but also an intimate relationship with Christ, a real friendship based on loving the one who loved us first and gave his life for us.”
Recitation of the Apostles’ Creed will be a major part of the Year of Faith. Recited at the Mass by the those gathered, Bishop Rhoades has asked that the faithful, especially families, recite the prayer daily. He noted it is the most ancient creed.
The Lord commanded the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations.
“Jesus sent the apostles forth to proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” Bishop Rhoades said. “This is our vocation as Christians.”
“This mission never changes,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The Gospel is perennial, for all time. It doesn’t change. So what is “new” when we speak of the New Evangelization? It’s not the message. The message is 2000 years old. What is needed is new passion, new ardor in the proclamation of the Gospel today.”
The bishop said the faith should burn within us when we encounter Christ.
“When it does, it transforms us and radiates from us,” he said. “It manifests itself in our words and deeds of love. It is seen in our joy. The Year of Faith is an invitation to all of us to experience anew the joy of life in Christ, especially through conversion, ongoing conversion, the new evangelization of ourselves, our parishes, and our communities.”
“The popes have told us that we cannot evangelize unless we are first and continually evangelized ourselves,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It means we need to be men and women of prayer, people who listen to the word of God, who walk the way of Christ. Then and only then are we able to help others to know the beauty of the Gospel that gives life.”
Chris VanGessel, who is in the process of selling her home in Fort Wayne and relocating to Indianapolis, told Today’s Catholic she plans to make the year a time to read the Gospels. “I plan to use the readings throughout the week,” she said, “to use it for my prayer” and ask the question, “what does it challenge me to do?” and “how does it change me?”
At the end of the homily, Bishop Rhoades encouraged the faithful to grasp the hand of the Blessed Mother during this Year of Faith.
“She who was the first to see the face of God made man helps us to contemplate the face of her Son, that joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious face that we contemplate when we pray the holy rosary,” Bishop Rhoades said. “She is the woman of faith, the pillar of faith, who accompanies us as our spiritual mother during our pilgrimage of faith on this earth.”
The bishop entrusted the Year of Faith to Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the diocese.
“I believe Lord. I believe” were the words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as he began the opening Mass for Year of Faith on Oct. 11 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Bishop Rhoades prayed that the Lord would increase our faith and we will spread the faith to others.
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A combined choir of students from Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers high schools led the music at the opening Mass for the Year of Faith at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 11.
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