Pope Benedict XVI is giving us a great opportunity in the upcoming year to make a big difference. In October 2011, he announced the Year of Faith, which is designed to help Catholics around the world deepen our relationship with God, better appreciate the gift of our Catholic faith and strengthen our commitment to sharing the Catholic faith with others. The observance will begin Oct. 11, which is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Year of Faith will conclude Nov. 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King.
We have more than nine months to prepare for this important celebration, but are we or will we be ready when Oct. 11 rolls around? What can I do to enhance not only my own relationship with Jesus but to help spread the Good News? These are questions I’ve been asking myself since the announcement was made.
Actually, these are questions I ask myself quite often. Because of my work in Catholic media, I am blessed to be surrounded by some pretty amazing evangelizers. It seems like at least once or twice a week I say, “I want to be more like him or her. Why can’t I be that strong of a public witness?”
Take, for example, my friend Steve Ray. Steve is an accomplished Catholic author, speaker and apologist. A major part of his ministry includes leading pilgrimages around the world, with his specialty being the Holy Land. Steve is a convert to Catholicism and, being that he has a Baptist background, it is probably no surprise that he has never had any trouble defending Christ or witnessing. That enthusiasm has been multiplied since entering the Church 17 years ago.
In early December, he was in the Ave Maria Radio studios to help us during one of our fundraisers. He shared a story over the airwaves that gave me chills. It is a story that would make Pope Benedict proud, and I think it’s exactly what the pontiff wants us to do more of — unabashedly witness as to why we are Catholic.
In Steve’s case, he took a little help from St. Francis of Assisi by wearing a beautiful San Damiano crucifix around his neck. As Steve explained, he was on his way to a speaking engagement when the man sitting next to him complimented him on the cross. He asked Steve what it was. Steve explained the history behind the cross and also told the fellow passenger that he wears it show his love for the Catholic Church.
The man asked him if he really believed it, and Steve said, “So much so that I would die for it.” The man put on his headphones and stared out the window. About 10 minutes later, the man tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to tell him more about the Catholic Church. “Can you explain to me why I should be a Catholic?” Steve then spent the next two hours on that flight sharing the truth about the Catholic faith. What an opportunity. As Pope Benedict said in his apostolic letter used to announce the Year of Faith, this is the way our faith spreads:
“Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy.”
We can start communicating our faith by taking some simple steps. Why not start by asking someone to Mass or by wearing your crucifix in a way that is very visible, rather than keeping it hidden from view? Maybe you will never become a well-known apologist, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we will be answering the baptismal call of evangelization.
Who knows, maybe when Oct. 11 rolls around, we will be ready for the Year of Faith.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.