As you may be aware, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (11 October 2012) will mark the start of a ‘Year of Faith’. During this time, Catholics are encouraged to reflect on their faith and their role as servants and messengers of Christ. CAFOD Westminster’s own Michael Walsh shares his personal reflection on faith, stewardship and the last 50 years:
“The year 1962 saw many colonies of Britain and other European countries achieve full independence and fierce conflict in many parts of the US over efforts to overcome racial discrimination. Nelson Mandela was arrested in August and began his incarceration for 27 years. Crick and Watson won a Nobel Prize for identifying the structure of DNA, and the Beatles first came to fame outside Liverpool. With inspiration from a group of Catholic women from that city CAFOD was founded.
Unlike CAFOD’s foundation the opening of the Second Vatican Council and its prospects were covered extensively in the press and broadcasting media. However, in October 1962 the first sessions of the Second Vatican Council were far from being the most arresting news item. I remember reflecting as I climbed the stairs a few days before my birthday that I might well not reach it. The Cuban missile crisis had begun and Heathrow and the air base in Ruislip, both only a few miles away, were certainly prime targets for Soviet missiles. They would have taken out our neighbourhood in the first minutes of conflict if they had been launched.
John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushev managed to find a way out of the impasse and the world’s population, which had reached three billion in 1962, escaped nuclear annihilation. But the extremely narrow margin of the escape showed to many in the Church and outside it how badly the world needed it to give a lead in tackling the appalling challenges to peace and justice. The Council and the popes since gave that lead. In the sixteen documents of the Council opened its arms in welcome to the modern world. It signalled that guided by scripture it had a mission to reach out and engage with the world, not just the Catholics in Europe and North America but with all people of goodwill of all faiths and none, in all countries: to share “as disciples of Christ… the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of people today, especially of the poor and afflicted.”
On October 11 this year the whole Church began to mark a whole year of faith, an idea introduced by the Pope in order to ‘give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they often find themselves to the place of life, friendship with Christ that gives us life in fullness’. Behind the initiative seems to lay a perception that large numbers of people in all countries have lost a sense of meaning in their lives through never having experienced the call of God by becoming aware of the Good News which Jesus Christ brought to the world.
Jesus Himself gave short shrift to those whose claim to follow Him consisted in referring to Him as Lord. The examples which we should follow are those of the Good Samaritan and the son who went to work in the field after saying to his father that he would not. St Francis called on his brother friars to go out and preach the Gospel, if necessary by using words. Practical engagement with CAFOD, joining in or supporting its efforts to enable communities round the world to achieve basic human needs of food and shelter and to secure respect for their God-given dignity, offers a way to bring the good news to a society in which other opportunities to hear the word of God are becoming rarer. In that way many may ‘rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith’ for which the Pope prays.”
If you would like to find out more about the Year of Faith and CAFOD’s 50 years of fighting injustice, visit CAFOD’s Year of Faith webpage by clicking here.