Tomorrow begins the “Year of Faith,” the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has uttered a call to all Catholics to renew and rejuvenate their faith, reading and putting into practice the rich treasury of wisdom that the Church has safeguarded for two thousand years.
To be perfectly honest, I’m in a much better place now to begin the year — having completed four days of my TOB retreat. My faith, which has taken something of a beating these past few months, is feeling less tenuous. Tomorrow night Craig and Sarah will come and join me for the last-night marshmallow roast — Sarah’s reward for being a good girl for Craig while I was gone. And in no time at all, it will be back to the salt mines.
What are you doing, to celebrate the Year of Faith? Ascension Press is offering a free email service of weekly reflections from authors like Danielle Bean, Jeff Cavins, Teresa Tomeo, and Dr. Edward Sri. You can sign up here.
In the meantime, I thought I’d kick off the year with a little story.
My Aunt Rosemary was in her early thirties when she was diagnosed with ALS. She was a faithful Christian woman with three small children — the youngest only about four. Her weekly women’s Bible study prayed for her every week, that God would take the disease away from her so she could see her children grow up. Prayed earnestly, with tears and great conviction.
Long story short, their prayers weren’t answered the way they’d hoped. Gradually, as Aunt Rosemary lost the use of her ability to stand, then to talk, the prayers got a little more frantic. Some actually accused her of “secret sin,” certain that God would have healed her if only she had enough faith. One by one, people stopped coming to her house. My mom would go to visit, communicating her with a shorthand alphabet system whereby she’d divide the alphabet into four parts (“apple” – a through e; “girl” – g through l; “manner” – m through r; and “stay” – s through z) and Rosemary would blink as Mom guessed the right letter for each word she wanted to say. She stayed in that medical limbo for almost eight years before she finally succumbed to the disease.
It wasn’t until years later, I asked one of my seminary professors about the sacrament of anointing, how often he’d seen actual healing take place as a result of ministering the sacrament. “It does happen,” Father told me. “But more often, it’s about strengthening the soul for what’s ahead.”
And so it is with the Year of Faith. None of us have any way of knowing what is in store for us in the coming year, shadow or glory. Rocky roads or smooth pavement. Feast or famine.
What we can say for sure is that, either way, how we respond to these circumstances depends to a great extent how willing we are to offer it back to God and trust him to make something beautiful out of it.
So join me, won’t you, in offering this year — whatever it holds — to the loving benevolence of God?
Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.