The Catholic Church has been in the news a great deal in the past year. Most of it, of course, has to do with the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis — not to mention our new pope’s outreach to the press and the people. Certainly a good number of the stories in the secular press have left many a Catholic, myself included, frustrated and even angry at times at the obvious lack of understanding, or shall we say a willingness, to understand the Church even a little bit better. When all is said and done, however, I now look at all the headlines as our glass being half full rather than half empty. And this year the opportunities to fill that glass to the rim are knocking at the door almost ’round the clock.
In a matter of days, on Feb. 28, will be the one-year anniversary of Pope Benedict stepping down from the papacy. The announcement was made two weeks earlier, on Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict said his decision was made after long and deep prayer and was based on his concerns over his age and his declining health. No doubt there will be more articles, blogs and more talk shows highlighting his historic announcement, and unfortunately many of those discussions on air or online will not be fruitful or faithful. They will most likely again try to claim that his resignation was a sign of the Church falling apart at the seams and from the top on down. We can practically write the headlines and the lead paragraphs ourselves since we are so used to attacks on the Church. But instead of just rolling our eyes or throwing up our hands, why not jump into the discussion in a positive way? The last pope to step down from the chair of Peter was back in the early 15th century. So this indeed is still an important anniversary and a major story. But why let those who don’t truly know or love our Church get the lion’s share of the chatter? In his suggested New Year’s resolutions, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., is encouraging the faithful to “defend the Catholic faith with the secular media or with public officials whenever important issues arise.” The papacy is important. So this is certainly one of those key moments not only to promote civil and respectful exchanges about our Church, but also to enlighten Catholics and others about the humility of Pope Benedict as well as his long list of beautiful contributions to the Church. And to encourage actually reading one of his encyclicals or many books.
Shortly after the anniversary of Benedict’s resignation will come the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis on March 13, and then a little over a month later the spotlight will still be on the Church and Rome in April with the canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. How much do we know about our current pope as well as the two men soon to be Catholic saints? How much does the average Catholic know about John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council? Are we going to just sit back and let those who most likely are operating from sensationalism rather than sincerity or journalistic integrity to control the conversations?
These are questions I have been asking myself and also posing to my listeners. Lots of folks in the media, in our parish parking lots, and at the watercooler are and will be talking about the Church. Opportunities to take part in the New Evangelization are knocking. We should not only be ready and willing to answer that door, but to use these opportunities also as invitations to learn more and grow more in our own walk of faith. And possibly even to encourage others to think about coming back to or into the universal Church.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.