New Reading Project for the Year of Faith

My idea for the Year of Faith: read the documents upon which Catholic social doctrine is founded, starting with Rerum Novarum. This will remind us of how our faith can inform the way we interact with the world.


IN HIS APOSTOLIC LETTER, Porta Fidei, announcing the new Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI said:

It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society.
In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.

The Holy Father goes on to say that the Year of Faith is intended to help Catholics overcome this “profound crisis of faith,” because

What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.

Accordingly, from now until next October, 2013, Catholics around the world will be taking up the Pope’s invitation to reacquaint themselves with the Faith they profess, perhaps by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church or, for those already well-instructed in the faith, by deepening their appreciation for their Catholic faith through spiritual reading, prayer, and other means.

The Year of Faith coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council and is intended, in part, to remind us of the great call of that Council for the Church — all the Church, including the laity — to find new and compelling ways to present the Gospel of Christ to the modern world, which is desperately in need of the grace and salvation that Christ offers. Sadly, the past fifty years have witnessed a great falling away from the Faith by many Catholics, and those who remain actively involved in the life of the Church are often poorly educated in the Faith they profess; hence, the call for this Year of Faith.

We’ve already seen many signs that the re-evangelizing of the Faithful has already begun, and we can certainly see many signs that, each day, our world seems more desperately to be in need of the Truth and Life that are in Christ. Sometimes it seems as if the world today is spinning in a moral vacuum, and certainly in many places the Christian faith is being suppressed or at least margninalized. This is especially sad, as Christianity offers real solutions to the many problems of our modern, increasingly secularized world.

In the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII prophetically foresaw that the solutions the world proposed to the rising problems of the modern age were not solutions at all but new problems in themselves, and, for the first time, a pope wrote an encyclical addressed to the world at large rather than to the Faithful alone. This encyclical was Rerum Novarum, a document which proposed Christian principles as the remedy to problems caused by both industrialism and the rise of socialism. It became the founding document of Catholic social doctrine. Ever since Leo promulgated Rerum Novarum in 1892, succeeding popes have continued to address the ways in which social and economic developments both challenge Christians and cry out for the saving remedy that can be obtained only from Christ, the Great Physician, and his Church.

I thought it would be a good idea, in this new Year of Faith, for Catholics to acquaint (or reacquaint) themselves with the documents that provide the sources of Catholic social doctrine, to see what a succession of popes, and the Second Vatican Council, have had to say about the ways in which the Catholic faith speaks to the problems of the modern world. Toward this end, I am initiating a special reading project for the Year of Faith, a “virtual reading group” that will read and discuss online many of the documents that the Church has provided over the past hundred years or so to help Christians better understand what we have to offer the troubled modern world.

I invite everyone interested to learn more and to join me in reading and discussing these documents. I hope to get the project underway within a week or so. Let me know if you are interested, or if you have questions or suggestions.

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