Monday, October 15, 2012

Cardinal Wuerl: Year of Faith to "reflect on the Church as the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in the world"

October 10, 2012
Dear Friends,      
This month, the Catholic Church will celebrate a special new year, not with fireworks or noisemakers, but with prayer, study and a firm intention to renew and deepen our faith so as to be better prepared to share it with others.

Tomorrow, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will initiate a Year of Faith to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  Earlier this week, the Holy Father convened The Synod for the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, where I have joined bishops from around the world for this month-long gathering.

The goal of both the Year of Faith and the Synod for the New Evangelization is to reawaken the faith in Catholics, so we can be better witnesses to the love of Christ and his Church in our homes, workplaces and communities. With hearts transformed by Christ and his Gospel, we can change our own lives, and change the world.

In light of these events, and as we prepare for our own archdiocesan synod in 2014 to mark the Archdiocese of Washington’s 75th anniversary, it seems appropriate to reflect on the Church as the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in the world and the role of clergy, religious and laity in carrying out his ministry.  Recently, I wrote a pastoral letter, The Church, Our Spiritual Home, which is an attempt to do just that.

As this period of renewal and revitalization begins, it is important for us to remember what exactly the Church is, what it means to the world, and what our role in it is.  The Church is the family of God.  Its members, those baptized into the Church, you and I, form a body with Christ as its head.  In order to truly know Christ, we must know him in his Body, the Church.

As we continue to carry out the New Evangelization and prepare to hold our own archdiocesan synod, we must be very clear about what the frame of reference is.  The Church is the home of God’s word.  It is the presence of Christ, sacramentally. We can only move forward if we fully understand who we are as members of the Church.

Our increasingly secular and materialistic culture has many misconceptions about the Church that Jesus founded. The Church is not a man-made organization, it is not a club of like-minded people, it is not politically partisan, nor is it a special interest group. Rather, the Catholic Church is the enduring, visible yet spiritual, structured yet Spirit-led, human yet divine presence of Christ in the world today.

Since the Church is the presence of Christ in our world, we who are members of the Church are called to be Jesus’ witnesses in our daily lives, in all that we say and do. The great commission that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven is the Lord’s call to us today, to be his witnesses, to shine the light and love of his Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Baptized as members of God’s family, his Church, we have an incredible gift that guides us in this life and leads us to eternal life with our Father in heaven. In this world, we are called to manifest God’s kingdom. This is not just the work of our Holy Father, our bishops, our priests, our deacons and our religious.  Our laity have a special call to renew the “temporal order”. The lay faithful are commissioned to take the Gospel and apply it to every aspect of life through the defense of human life, marriage and family; care of the sick and those in need, and the development of a more just distribution of the goods of the earth and care for all of creation. This is what we mean by the transformation of the temporal order.

In our Archdiocese of Washington, I invite all Catholics to participate in the upcoming parish and regional listening sessions in preparation for the archdiocesan synod, so people can share their ideas about what we are doing well and how we can improve in the key areas of worship, education, community, service and administration/ stewardship.  We can help build up a better Church for the future and play a part in helping our family of faith be the best Church that Christ calls us to be.

In a previous letter, I mentioned that future e-letters during the Year of Faith would include suggested resources for learning more about the Church so as to deepen your own faith.  Two of the best reference materials to begin with are the Holy Scriptures – I recommend the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) - and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Regular reading and study of God’s Word, even if only for several minutes a day, is a sure way to grow closer to Christ.  Studying the Catechism then builds on that firm foundation, enabling one to grow in knowledge of the Catholic faith – what we believe and why.  The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is another helpful resource in this area.

Also, I invite all Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington to participate in the new Living Catholic formation program. This adult education program developed by the archdiocese, includes opening and closing sessions at parishes, with four weeks of online learning based on the Four Pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Living Catholic is a great way to grow in knowledge and love of the faith, and then, with confidence, share it with others. That is what the New Evangelization is all about.

Finally, in order to gain a better understanding of the importance of charitable works and community engagement in the practice of our faith, I encourage you to read Catholic Impact 2012.  This compilation of information about the many ways the Church serves our particular community – through education, health care and charitable and social services – may surprise you.

In this special month and year for the Catholic Church, I urge you to take the opportunity to learn more about what it means to be Catholic, and how our faith is a great gift from God that we are called to share with others.

The events happening in Rome this month, as the Synod for the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith begin, might seem far away, but in our own community, we too must be engaged in this great call from Jesus, to be his witnesses and to walk with him as his disciples in today’s world, sharing his love and hope in our daily lives. As a family of faith, as members of the Catholic Church founded by Jesus that endures as a living sign of his love and presence, let us celebrate this special new year together!

Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl
                                                                                   Archbishop of Washington

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