Faith the Size of a Refrigerator Magnet
By Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C.
A refrigerator often tells a story. And I don’t mean the inside. Of course, the inside tells a story about what and how someone eats – meat-eater or vegan, organic vegetables or not a vegetable in sight, everything clean, neat and organized or a jumble of items that requires a contamination suit and mask to venture toward the back! No, I mean the outside, the part that many people put those “Save the Date” magnets for up-coming weddings that stay there long after the wedding date has gone by. Sometimes there are pictures there of family and friends or in families I know a picture drawn by a child and proudly displayed. The other day at a friend’s house, I saw a small magnet on the refrigerator with some colorful drawings and short numbered texts that was entitled, “7 Habits for the Year of Faith.” I stopped for a moment and thought, “Stephen Covey thinking for faith, now there is New Evangelization.” I’ll get back to what I mean by that in a bit. Stephen Covey for those who don’t know is the author of Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, a book that has sold millions of copies and offers very basic “habits” that, if followed, Covey contends, will change our lives into very effective ones. I am not really sure about that, but do think that the 7 habits that were listed for the Year of Faith were worth considering and trying.
Before we get to the habits it might be good to look at just what faith is and what the Year of Faith is. Let’s start with the second and go back to the first. The Year of Faith was initiated by Pope Benedict XVI and began on October 11th of this year and will end on November 23, 2013. He sees it as a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world” (Porta Fide, n. 6) By summons he means an invitation, a call by Jesus Christ to us to be in relationship, in friendship with him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls faith our response to God who calls us friend (n. 142). Not like some of our Facebook friends, people whose lives we watch go by and occasionally “Like,” but a true relationship that demands more from us. The “more” is less of self and more of God, deeper love of God and neighbor in response to God’s love for us. The “more” is what Pope Benedict means when he talks about an “authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord.” The “more” is also at the heart of the Catholic Church’s efforts in the New Evangelization.
The New Evangelization comes out of an understanding of Blessed John Paul II who in a speech to the bishops of Latin America back in 1983 spoke about a way of evangelizing that was new in “ardor, expressions and methods.” Pope Benedict renewed this call in 2010 when he spoke about the need to “propose anew” the Gospel for our time. One aim of the New Evangelization is simply to assist people in the community of faith to live the “more” – to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to believe in the truth of the Gospel and then to witness to Christ through faith and charity. As Pope Benedict puts it,
“Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples” (Porta Fide, n. 7).
The life of faith is not lived simply between me and God. Instead, it is lived in the context of the community of faith called Church. In and through the community we grow, develop, and love the “more”. How? Usually, it is by starting simple and small, the size of things on a refrigerator magnet. Maybe it is time to get back to those 7 Habits for the Year of Faith that I saw on my friend’s refrigerator door.
There you have them, “7 Habits for the Year of Faith” (someone even made a meditative YouTube video with them) that are worth doing long after the year is over. Of course, there are many other deeper habits that each of us can think of such as study of the Bible and Catholic tradition and teaching or advocacy for justice and peace. But, these are a few basic habits, things that we don’t even have to think about doing if we do them enough. Habits rooted in the teachings of the community of faith, the Church, and move us beyond self and into deeper relationship with God and neighbor. Never know what you will learn from a refrigerator magnet!
Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center. CVN partner, Catholic Apostolate Center, offers resources for the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization, Catholic prayer and teaching, and collaboration in ministry.