Benedict XVI announced a “Year of Faith” beginning October 11, 2012 and continuing through November 24, 2013. The start date marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#4). The pope desires that this Year of Faith will enkindle among believers a desire to ardently profess the faith; to celebrate their faith through liturgy; and to witness to their faith through their lives (#9).
Faith and a commitment to social justice go together. “Indeed,” explained Benedict XVI, “many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen.” This passage evokes an important principle of Catholic social teaching: the preferential option for the poor. Turning to scripture, Benedict XVI quotes the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus said, “‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40)” (#14). The pope comments on this passage: “These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us” (#14). There are many ways in which Christians can join faith with action for social justice.
Catholic Relief Services is an international humanitarian agency through which all people of good will are able to make the preferential option for the poor, directly and indirectly. The “Option for the Poor” is one of their guiding principles. They explain it this way: “In every economic, political and social decision, a weighted concern must be given to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. When we do this we strengthen the entire community, because the powerlessness of any member wounds the rest of society.” CRS is present in over 100 countries and territories across the globe. There are many ways that they serve and many ways for people to get involved.
The Year of Faith is an opportunity to actualize faith through the doing of justice, in response to Jesus’ invitation to love.
See: Benedict XVI’s Porta Fidei (2011).
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Religious Studies