It is almost two months since the door of the Year of Faith (YoF) was opened. The fact that this is my first posting for this new Vocations Blog is a sign of just how busy these two months have been – this is not an excuse for my lack of blog output (honest!) but a real celebration of just how grace-filled the Year of Faith is already proving to be. I have really experienced a fresh thirst amongst so many people with a significant increase in the numbers attending events and so many conversations with men and women who really want the Year of Faith to make a difference in their lives – to take their faith to a new level.
This hunger was there to see in our initial event for the Year of Faith – a retreat day entitled “Called to a Deeper Discipleship? – Finding your key for the Year of Faith”, which was held at St Mary of the Angels parish in Bayswater on October 6th, the Saturday before the official opening of the YoF on Thursday 11th October. The idea for the day was simple – an oasis day with time for prayer and adoration, conversation and inspiration to help everyone attending to find their own personal key for the first door they were to open on their journey into the YoF.
Everyone received their own physical key as a symbol for crossing this threshold moment into the YoF.
In the morning, inspiration came from four testimonies focusing on different areas of our faith life – a family man who is applying his faith to his working life, a young woman committed to sharing Theology of the Body’s vision for authentic human sexuality, a poet expressing her faith in the world of the arts and, finally, a young seminarian training for the priesthood. We had over 100 people packed into the parish centre who listened deeply to these four very different but complementary voices. It is so inspiring to be in the company of men and women really on fire in their faith!
A very appropriate working definition for what faith really means emerged across the four testimonies – in the words of Blessed Mother Teresa: “Faith means trusting in God and not in ourselves.” All four showed this and challenged us to move beyond compromise and complacency in our own lives and to take the risk of committing to a definite path of service of God and the Church.
In the afternoon, a ‘Faith Fair’ brought to the mix the talents and passions of a wonderfully diverse range of organisations/communities/individuals living out their faith in so many different ways in Westminster diocese – from contemplatives to campaigners, from artists to activists. It was fantastic to overhear the conversations which ensued and to literally see the Holy Spirit at work connecting people and guiding them to a particular “well” from which they could draw life-giving water on the journey ahead.
For me personally, after four intensive weeks of working with a great team to bring everything together for the day, it was just wonderful to step back and watch God taking the whole enterprise to places which we could never have imagined – a sign, I am sure, of what the whole Year of Faith journey can be for us all if we simply give God the chance and open the door for him to enter more deeply into our lives.
One particularly important theme which emerged in the day was that before we can open a door for/to God, we often need to close another door. If we simply see the YoF as a time to “do more” for God, then it runs the risk of becoming mere religious activism in already over-cluttered lives.
It’s about bringing God to the centre, to the core of my life and for that to happen we may need his grace to firstly remove a false god from the heart of our lives, whatever that may be for each one of us – attitudes or behaviour patterns which are undermining our faith and relationship with God and others. For me, God has made it clear that if I really want to hear his voice in my life, then the way I begin and end each day is crucial. Sending emails at midnight is a door I need to close if I want to open the door to a time of prayerful silence and stillness before God at the close of each day. How about you?