“Year of faith” brings advice from the Vatican

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On the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI invited Catholics around the world to share in a “Year of Faith” that will last until November 24, 2013, the Feast of Christ the King.

In particular, Catholics are called to study Scripture, the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church with an eye toward deeper integration of the baptismal call to discipleship.

I would simply nuance these suggestions with what Jesuit Fr. Dan Berrigan has to say about faith: “Your faith is rarely where your head is at, just as rarely where your heart is at. Your faith is where your ass is at! Where are you living? What are you doing? These things—our actions, our charity, our morality—are what determine whether we believe or not.”

To the degree it does not collapse into simply asserting a set of propositions, faith is risky business. Not only because it does not offer certitudes in a world that is complicated and fast-changing, but more importantly because it allows itself to be moved by the questions and needs of the “other.”

Since the Year of Faith celebrates the anniversary of Vatican II, I suggest using the council’s popular image of “opening the windows” to see what is going on around us to help us focus on the needs of the world today. It is important to study Scripture and tradition to learn more about our religious beliefs and practices. However, I suspect we are most often deeply converted not by books, ideas and doctrines, but by contact with the poor, the marginalized, the outsider, by people outside the usual bubble of those who think, look and believe like you do.

Maybe this is a chance to get out of your comfort zone – to get off campus and go somewhere that scares you a little, to try to get to know someone you wouldn’t normally think to interact with, to volunteer to do something that is not easy for you.

While it may not give you a lot of absolute answers, it will at least shake up your normal routine and open you to the questions that occupy the lives of people in need, and that, as much as anything, is where our faith must live if it is to live at all.