It is no coincidence that the pronouncement of the Year of Faith by Pope Benedict XVI came on the heels of the call for the New Evangelization, according to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
Increasingly, and ever more urgently, the Church is asking Catholics to be prepared and willing to protect and defend the faith and religious liberty, he said in his Nov. 24 homily that closed the Year of Faith for the Diocese of Phoenix at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares celebrated a Mass simultaneously at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cottonwood to close the Year of Faith with Catholics from the northern-area parishes.
“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” shouted Blessed Miguel Pro as he stood before the firing squad in Mexico City on Nov. 23, 1927. “Long live Christ the King!”
Fr. Pro’s declaration of faith needs to ring as loudly today as it did on that day when he stretched out his arms in the form of a cross and chose to express and evangelize his faith in Jesus Christ and exercise his religious freedom, rather than let it be stripped from him, Bishop Olmsted said.
The priest was killed by Mexican government officials during the late 1920s, a time of religious persecution in the nation. Eighty-six years to the day later, the Church closed out the Year of Faith, on the vigil of the feast of Christ the King.
“Today, with joyful hearts the Church proclaims this same message! Christ is alive; He reigns as King!” Bishop Olmsted said. “The Year of Faith is coming to an end, but our Christian faith is not. The Year of Faith has been a boot camp, a training ground to prepare us for spiritual battles.”
The Diocese of Phoenix concluded the Year of Faith with the second diocesan Eucharistic Congress at the cathedral. The first Eucharistic Congress at the cathedral kicked off the Year of Faith for the diocese in October 2012.
“In a very real and visible way, we are living what Vatican II taught us about the Eucharist, that it is the source and summit of our faith,” said Fr. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral, of the Nov. 18-22 congress. “We bookended the Year of Faith with the very sacrament of our faith — Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”
Speakers included author Vinny Flynn, author and recording artist Michael John Poirier, and Fr. Sergio M. Fita, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Gilbert, who also celebrated a bilingual Mass on Monday evening.
The congress focused on refreshing the faith, helping to refocus Catholics and refine understanding of Jesus’ enduring presence.
“This time of refreshment is to propel us forward so that the fruits of this year are never to die,” said Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, OCD, vicar general of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, who was the Thursday night keynote speaker. “That’s because when we celebrate this Year of Faith, our lives are forever changed going forward.”
According to Fr. Lankeit, we must take from the Year of Faith the same call that we hear at the dismissal from Mass, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
“What we should have been doing throughout the Year of Faith is allowing the Lord to strengthen that faith, to make it something that we can now do something with to bring others to Christ,” Fr. Lankeit said. “The Year of Faith doesn’t have a start and end. It is meant to be taken into action through evangelization.”
In this time when the Church is finding religious liberties under attack, Catholics will increasingly need the courage and strength to defend religious freedom as a right not granted by the state, but as a gift of God, Bishop Olmsted said. Catholics live as people in this world, but not of this world, he said.
“Religious liberty gives us the ability not just to worship at Mass and to pray the rosary at home — but also the freedom to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to serve the poor and to follow the dictates of our conscience,” the bishop said.
The Eucharistic Congress sought to remind Catholics of the presence of Christ in their lives.
“Through the eucharistic sacrifice, the Lord Jesus beckons men and women of every place and time to believe in the beauty of His love and, already in this world, to taste it with profound joy,” Bishop Olmsted said. “¡Viva Cristo Rey!“