I grew up in a small coal town in northeast Pennsylvania where we didn’t lock doors very often. Our front door was always open, and I recall that even our car (bought used but always kept shiny in front of our home) also was unlocked. Of course best of all in those days, the Church doors were open. You could always pop in for a visit to our Lord Jesus in the tabernacle. It was very convenient and, now that I get older and accustomed to all sorts of locked doors, I see it as deeply significant.
When he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis wrote about locked doors. He was speaking at the beginning of the Year of Faith that will come to a conclusion this November on Christ the King Sunday. He expressed deep regret for the dangerous and “turned in on itself” modern culture that seems to lock everything (and some will add “for good reason”) even to the inevitable locking of the doors of our hearts that have been hardened to the cruelties of life.
This year’s theme for Catechetical Sunday, which we celebrated two weeks ago, was: “Open the Door of Faith.” The official description says this: “This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on September 15, 2013, and will focus on the theme ‘Open the Door of Faith.’ Those whom the community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.”
It was a year ago that Pope emeritus Benedict began the Year of Faith with his message aptly named Porta Fidei — “Door of Faith.” The door, of course, is our baptism. It is the way in which Jesus enters our life, freely invited by us or by our trustworthy parents and godparents. Through this door flows the graces of the life of the Holy Spirit, which leads us to holiness in which the “image and likeness of God” in which we were born is reclaimed, polished, and presented to the world. I say “presented to the world” because we, through our baptism, are to be witnesses to our faith in the world.
On Catechetical Sunday I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for Louisville Young Catholics — a vibrant and enthusiastic group of faith-filled 20- and 30-year-olds — and had a chance to dialogue formally for an hour or so with them before we shared hot dogs and hamburgers. One question came to me: How would I describe the Year of Faith as we near its completion? Quickly I answered: “as a launching pad!” I believe this even more as we follow the lead of Pope Francis in “going out” — not waiting for people to come to the Church. I could well have said: “by opening the door of our hearts more widely to Jesus and to the world.”
On that occasion in the St. Francis of Assisi parish hall, I was able to bless the child in the womb of a faith-filled attractive married couple. I have been promoting the Rite of Blessing and the booklet which explains it, Gift of Joy (order at www.osv.com or www.amazon.com). As you might expect all were attentive as I prayed for the child growing in the womb of her mother, for the mom, and for the dad. Then I was struck by how the rite called me to bless all the faithful who were present and who shared the responsibility of cultivating that gift of faith in the heart of the child, soon to be born and baptized. This experience brought home again the realization that, as baptized Catholic Christians, every one of us is called to live the year of faith and to open the door.
We are not to be pushy or preachy but to creatively use the unique gifts that God has given to each of us to spread His Gospel — good news for the world.
Bishop David Ricken, as chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization, put it this way: “May this new year of faith be a time for renewal of a relationship with Jesus, faithful participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and for reopening the “door of faith” which was first opened at one’s Baptism.”
As we anticipate the ending of the Year of Faith, I wanted to be sure that you all saw The Record article about those who will be receiving Papal Honors. How fitting that we will celebrate and distribute these papal honors to nine faithful men and women who represent us all as we strive to keep our doors of faith open and witness to the world. If you missed the story, go to therecordnewspaper.org and search for Papal Honors. The Record will be doing a story about these men and women next week.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz