By Paul McMullen
CATONSVILLE – Believe and accept the church’s teachings. Let its truths guide our lives. Share that faith.
Those were three “tasks”Archbishop William E. Lori gave to a nearly filled church at St. Mark Oct. 7, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore got a head start on the Year of Faith that will begin Oct. 11 and conclude Nov. 24, 2013, per Pope Benedict XVI’s proclamation.
In addition to using the Sunday Scripture readings to reinforce the sanctity of traditional marriage, Archbishop Lori illuminated the New Evangelization with a gathering of faith communities that included three parishes that are clustered with St. Mark.
“Welcome to the Catonsville (St. Mark and St. Agnes), Arbutus (Our Lady of Victory) and Ten Hills (St. William of York) trifecta,” said Father Christopher J. Whatley, pastor of St. Mark, to Archbishop Lori.
Other celebrants included Father Michael Foppiano, administrator of St. Agnes and St. William of York; Father G. Eugene Nickol, associate pastor of St. Mark; and retired Father John L. Kelly.
To see a slideshow of the event, navigate the arrows below.
The faithful included religious women from the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Nashville Dominicans who staff nearby Mount de Sales Academy. Mary Jo Warthen, principal of a vibrant St. Mark School, was there, along with many of her students, most in uniform jumpers and khakis.
There were also worshippers in purple and orange, as the 5 p.m. Mass came an hour after the Ravens finished a victory in Kansas City, and 75 minutes before the scheduled first pitch of the Orioles’ American League Divisional Series opener against the Yankees at Camden Yards.
Archbishop Lori thanked all, and saved a particular appreciation for Paulist Father John Hurley, the head of the archdiocesan Department of the Evangelization, who was in attendance with many of his staff.
The archbishop used the start of the Year of Faith, a period of prayer, reflection and renewal, to define the New Evangelization, which he said in his homily, “is not simply a program or a set of initiatives. Rather it is the very heart of the church’s identity and mission.”
“Evangelization,” he continued, “has to do with really accepting the Gospel and then courageously and lovingly sharing (it) with others. The New Evangelization doesn’t mean that we’ve invented a new Gospel, that somehow we’ve changed the Good News of what the Lord taught and did for us into a message that is more in keeping with the tenor of the times.
“No, it’s not a new Gospel we’re looking for; rather, it’s newness of life – it’s a newness of faith, a new confidence in the church’s faith, and a newfound readiness to share that faith, confidently and joyfully with others. To echo today’s Gospel, it’s asking for the grace to develop the heart of a child so that we might be with Jesus and bring others to Jesus with trust and love.”
To that end, Archbishop Lori elaborated on the three tasks that will make the Year of Faith more meaningful.
In the matter of belief, he said, “When we respond to the grace of the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to Christ, then the truth and beauty of what the church believes and teaches shines forth.
“As we pray over Scripture and reflect and study what the church believes and why, we come to know the person of Christ more and more deeply and we come to claim him as ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ So our first task is to believe in Christ by standing with him, while growing in our knowledge and understanding of the church’s teaching.”
Second, we must “become utterly convinced of the coherence, truth, beauty and goodness of all that the church teaches with respect to faith and morals, including those moral and social teachings that are often countercultural, such as the church’s teaching on marriage and sexual morality and the sacredness of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.
“We are called to assent to what the church teaches, not merely with an intellectual nod, a knowing smile or a passing glance – but rather to become utterly convinced that these are the words of everlasting life. Our faith must not occupy merely a compartment in our minds and hearts but rather must shape the way we think, the decisions we make, the words we say, and the quality of our relationships at home, in the parish, at work and with friends.
Third, Archbishop Lori said “we must be prepared to share our faith with others, to bear witness to the faith credibly not only because we know and understand the faith but because we love the faith, because we have walked through the door of faith, the door which leads to Christ and to everlasting life.
“When people see in us a faith that is whole and entire, a joy that is genuine, a courage that is palpable – then, with the grace of the Holy Spirit they too might find the courage to return home to the Lord and to the church or maybe to open their hearts to Christ and the Gospel for the first time in their lives.”
Copyright (c) Oct. 8, 2012 CatholicReview.org