Ways to Celebrate the Year of Faith

Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed a Year of Faith—beginning October 11, 2012, and ending on November 24, 2013. The Pope says, “This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” (Porta Fidei, n. 4).

This 13 month-long celebration marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council as well as the twentieth anniversary of the publication the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The opening date marked the opening of the council and the concluding date (November 24, 2014) celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. This, too, is significant. Pope Pius XI instituted this solemnity in 1925 to counter the rise of secularism and the growing threat of Nazism.

The Year of Faith is celebrated on various levels throughout the Church:
 At the national level, the bishops’ conferences are focusing on the quality of catechesis so that teaching of the faith will conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church; At the parish level, the focus is on celebrating the Eucharist and moving forward with the New Evangelization.

The following suggestions can help you incorporate the Year of Faith in your family.

  • Go to annusfidei.va to find out more about the Year of Faith, to view the Year of Faith logo, to read the Pope’s apostolic letter proclaiming the Year of Faith (Porta Fidei), and much more.

  • Go to Catholic News Agency (catholicnewsagency.com) and search for Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith.

  • Go to Phoenix Diocese : http://catholicfamilyprayer.org/

  • Pope Benedict emphasized the importance of the following as we celebrate the Year of Faith:
    1. Feeding ourselves on Scriptures and the Eucharist
    2. Professing Faith: reciting the Creed and being actively involved with the new evangelization
    3. Obtaining the content of our faith by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church
    4. Renewing our zeal for work of charity
  • The Year of Faith was proclaimed in Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter titled Porta Fidei. An apostolic letter is one way that the Holy Father speaks to the Church. 
Find Cardinal Bergolio’s letter on the Year of Faith also.
 Read them yourself and give your children a brief summary with one core message that they can take home with.
    “The Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6)
    “Crossing the threshold of faith means not being ashamed to have the heart of a child who, because he still believes in impossible things, can live in hope...” (Cardinal Bergolio)

  • Begin reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and discuss as a couple. There is also a 200-page volume available that is reader friendly.

  • Memorize and recite the Creed together as a family.

  • Pray as a family; the best times are after meals and at bedtime incorporating the following elements:
    1. 1Thanking God for gifts, graces and answered prayers
    2. Asking forgiveness
    3. Reading Scriptures
    4. Petitioning
    5. Parents’ imparting blessings to children
  • Plenary Indulgences
"During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.”

    Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

    (B)Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

    (C)Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

    (D)On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form."

The Phoenix Diocese Guideline regarding Plenary Indulgences in the Year of Faith:

Between now and the end of the Year of Faith (Nov. 24, 2013), plenary indulgences can be obtained by members of the faithful in the Diocese of Phoenix by visiting one of the following historic Churches and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father (an Our Father and a Hail Mary).

Indulgences may also be obtained by attending Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours at any sacred place in the diocese and making a Profession of Faith on feast days of American saints listed below.

The person seeking the indulgence must have received sacramental confession and Holy Communion within a week of the visit. Further, in order for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, the individual must be free from sin (even venial). Only one plenary indulgence may be gained on a day.

Indulgences may be gained by visits to these churches:
St. Mary’s Basilica (Phoenix)
Old St. Mary’s (ASU Newman Center, Tempe)
Immaculate Heart of Mary (Phoenix)
Our Lady of Guadalupe (Flagstaff)
San Xavier del Bac (Tucson)
Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral (Phoenix)

Feast days for indulgences:
Jan. 4 (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)
Jan. 5 (St. John Neumann)
Jan. 23 (St. Marianne Cope)
March 3 (St. Katherine Drexel)
May 10 (St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai)
July 1 (Blessed Junipero Serra)
July 14 (St. Kateri Tekawitha)
Oct. 3 (St. Mother Theodore Guerin)
Oct. 19 (North American Martyrs)
Oct. 22 (Blessed John Paul II)
Oct. 28 (Sts. Simon and Jude)
Nov. 6 (Blesseds Eduardo Farre and Lucas Tristany)
Nov. 13 (St. Francis Cabrini)
Nov. 18 (St. Rose Philippine Duschesne)
Granted on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2012.

  • The Year of Faith Wall Chart
    Give each child a space on the wall by sticking a sheet of brown paper. Using this wall chart as their avenue to express and exhibit what faith means for them. Have them post what they have created in their faith activities and bible studies, creating a large collage of images or binding all the sheets into a book as they go through the whole year.

  • Begin reading Scriptures as a family and having a weekly bible study on the theme of faith with your children.

  • First session example: Start with the definition of faith in Hebrew 11. See what how faith is defined by St. Paul. Then do the following activity: What is the item?

  • What is the item?
    Place several random and common household items into a brown paper bag. Have the children sit in a circle on the floor. The children should put blindfolds on and take turns pulling items out of the bag and guessing what they are by feel only. They might know that an apple is an apple, yet they cannot prove it without sight. They simply have faith that they know what they are touching. Likewise, they will know a cotton ball when they feel it because they have had experience with cotton balls in the past and have faith that they are experiencing the same thing. Explain to the children that our faith in God is much like faith in understanding the items in the bag. While we cannot clearly see God, our experiences with God help us to have faith and identify God's working in our lives.

  • Blowing in the Wind
    Give each child a kite and spend an afternoon flying the kites in the wind. When you get back to the church, talk about the wind. Like God, wind is hard to define because it cannot be seen even though the effects of it can be felt and seen when the kite is blowing in the wind. When God works in our lives, we cannot always see, define or prove God's presence, yet the results of our faith are visible in the life changes we experience.

  • Hebrews 11 also provides a long list of faith heroes who accomplished great things through faith in God. Let each choose one story and draw a picture and read out the verses. Stick the picture they have drawn on the Year of Faith wall chart.

  • Faith News Reports
    Read the long list of faith heroes who accomplished great things through faith in God in Hebrews 11 . Let each child pick one or more from the bible or saints to write a news report about. Get them to design the newspaper page and write the story, describing the character and what they did. You may turn it into a script for a short radio interview as a variation. Encourage children to share their articles at the end of the family meal or the family talent show. Exhibit the newspaper page on the Year of Faith wall chart.

  • Pictionary
    Play Pictionary using Christian characters found in Hebrews 11 (the faith chapter of the Bible). Separate the people into two teams. Assign a leader to each team that will draw. Give each team leader the same character's name and have him draw clues to get the team to guess the character. The first team to guess the correct name gets a point. Play this for as many rounds as you want, and discuss how each drawn character is an example of faith.

  • The Holy Father has used the term "faith fatigue."
    Have children role-play a brief skit that demonstrates what they think “faith fatigue” looks like. Other terms children could act out are “gift of faith,” “loss of faith,” “leap of faith,” “embracing the faith.” Invite children to suggest more phrases that include the word faith.

  • Constructing the faith-action images
    Choose one of faith stories in the Scriptures and read out and meditate on it. Have children search through old magazines, cut out pictures that represent the power of faith in action that reflect the scripture they read and meditated, and construct a collage and have them come up with a title for the collage and a brief summary of it. Have them add it onto the Year of Faith wall chart. Mt 17:19-33, Mt 9:22, Lk 1, 1 Sm 17, 1Kings 18, Jn 4,...

  • Study lives of saints and have children select and read about one of the saints highlighted in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Then get each child to research that saint further to see if he or she can come up with one more piece of information about the saint that is not mentioned in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Draw picture of one or more aspects of their chosen saint’s virtuous life. Add it to their Year of Faith wall chart.

  • Growing Cress
    In Matthew 17:20 Jesus compared faith to a mustard seed, a tiny seed out of which great things grow. For this activity use cress seeds. Cress grows easily indoors. Give each child a patch of cress seeds on a bed of cotton wool to look after. Have children observe the seeds' growth daily over the course of a week. Use the experiment to illustrate how a little bit of faith can accomplish great things. Read and discuss Mt 17:20 again. Take a picture of Cress growing and stick it on the Year of Faith wall Chart.

  • Trust Exercises
    Trust exercises are a wonderful way to demonstrate faith with children of varying ages. Younger children can stand blindfolded in a circle and pass a ball from person to person, talking about how they trust that the next person is there even though they cannot see them. Older children can fall backward into the waiting hands of the rest, trusting that they will be caught before they hit the floor. After the exercise is over, the children can talk about how faith in God is trusting that God is there, even without being able to see God.

  • Get them to make a rosary.

  • Pray the rosary together as a family

  • Good deeds
    Encourage children to do good for others in the family, school... Develop your own family tradition of reporting good deeds, say at dinner table. Offer a ‘Good Deed Prize’ to be awarded monthly for the best good deed. Award the prize in a family meeting the same time each month. Applaud the winner and praise (in front of your child) to your friends and relatives on his winning the prize.

  • Do voluntary work together as a family. 
Discuss good deeds you could do together as a family and go do them. Lk 10:25-37

  • Obedience prize
    Discuss how important it is for children to obey mom and dad and encourage them to obey without grumbling or hesitation. You can do a series of bible study on this. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Epheians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:22, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 4:16-17, Deuteronomy 4:1, 1 Samuel 15:22, John 15:14, Galatians 5:13-14, 2 John 1:6...) You may make an “Obedience chart.” Offer “the most obedient prize” to be awarded monthly. Award the prize in a family meeting the same time each moth. Applaud the winner and praise (in front of your child) to your friends and relatives on his winning the prize.

  • Eucharistic adoration
    At home: First read and study scriptures/ sections of the C.C.C. that explain the True Presence in the Eucharist. Let them draw to express what the Eucharist is for them or write a letter to Jesus or compose a song. Go to church on Mondays and the first Friday of the month (Youth Annex West) and spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. You may stay in the Presence of God for 5 mins or 10 mins... depending on the readiness of your children. Conclude with a prayer such as Hail Mary.., Glory..., or Our Father... Then visit a park or at home to celebrate the love that they expressed to Jesus through their good behaviors at the church by sharing any of their favorite snack items. As they feast on those, speak to them about spiritual food that we need much more than such foods that satisfy us.

  • The following are Eucharist lessons to be used to educate our children:
    1. Spiritual Food.
      Food is a natural starter for conversations about the Eucharist since food is one of children’s main interests in life: explain to them how closely eating is connected to our spiritual life and salvation; God’s allowing Adam and Eve so many delicious fruits to eat... the first sin came through eating of an forbidden fruit... salvation comes through taking our spiritual food... Jesus’ feeding the multitude, but warning the people not to focus only on the material food ... in Exodus the Jews were told to kill a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread... Jesus, after resurrection, catching up with Peter over a brunch... some disciples’ meeting Jesus on the way to Emmaus and having their eyes opened to realize that it was Jesus only when the bread was broken... Jesus’ sharing the Passover meal with his disciples establishing the Eucharist...
 "The Eucharist is a meal. On the table of the altar, Jesus feeds us with his Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine. "
Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek.
 "Just as food that is delicious and nourishes our bodies, the Eucharist is spiritual food that nourishes our soul and only those who take such food will get to heaven." 
"The bread and wine are signs that tell us the Lord is nourishing us spiritually."
    2. Real Presence
      Unlike other signs--traffic signs, for example --that do not contain what they signify, the bread and wine of the Eucharist contain what they signify. Jesus is truly there: we need to take His Body and Blood to be alive in the love of God as we take three meals daily to sustain our physical life; if we don’t take food, we will become very weak and eventually die. Jesus’ Body and Blood make us alive in God’s Presence.
    3. Sacrifice.
      Christ's sacrifice on the cross was the offering of his Body and Blood to the Father as gifts for the salvation of the world. In the Eucharist, we offer the Father this gift of Jesus. It is the greatest gift we can give the Father, and we receive abundant blessings because of this. You can use the concept of gift giving to help your children understand the sacrificial element of the Eucharist. Here are some points to make: "We give gifts as a sign of our giving ourselves to people we love." "We like to share our gifts with friends --like candy or toys--as a way of uniting ourselves to them in love." "In the Mass, we give bread and wine to God as signs of our giving ourselves to him. God unites our gifts with the bread and wine. Through the action of the priest, the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This act makes present the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its divine power of salvation for us. When we receive Communion, we are united with Jesus and transformed by his saving power into him. When we eat ordinary bread, we change the bread into ourselves. When we eat Christ's Eucharistic Bread, he changes us into Jesus and His Body, the Church. God accepts our gifts (bread, wine, ourselves) and changes them by uniting them with himself, which is grace. Then he gives them to us to share in Holy Communion."
    4. Celebration.
      We have parties to celebrate events and anniversaries, and the Eucharist is a celebration of the most important event ever. You may find the following themes helpful:
 "At parties, we celebrate with special foods and drinks, and we do things like sing and dance to express how we feel." "The Eucharist is a celebration. We gather with friends to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus." “We are forgiven of our sings and accepted by God. He loves us through and through.
 The Eucharist is a thanksgiving celebration of what God has done for us in Christ."
  • A Jar of offering up.

    Discuss why we suffer offences, inconveniences and sometimes injustice in life. Make sure to give them a clear catechesis on why suffering is part of our life and how to deal with it: redemptive suffering and the importance of forgiveness. Teach them how to tap those occasions of inconveniences and pain into the salvific power of Christ by releasing forgiveness and offering them up to the Lord so that they will be united with the Passion of Christ and mysteriously used for the salvation of souls. Then give each child a glass jar and let him decorate it. Provide a bag of beads; whenever each child offers up inconveniences or pain, he can fill his jar with a bead. Reward will be seeing how the salvation account increases when he chooses to respond to what is inconvenient or painful in a redemptive way.

  • A Jar of Overcoming

    The same can be used to deal with and overcome weaknesses and temptations. Discuss weaknesses they want to overcome or grow out of: anger, lying, fear, impatience, lack of charity, difficulty forgiveness... Pray with each child for God’s grace to strengthen him so that he will overcome his weaknesses. Whenever he overcomes temptation to react in a wrong way, he can drop a bead in his jar. As beads fill the jar, the child will be also filled with courage that will say to him that “he can do it.”

  • How to talk about God with your kids.

    When you talk to you kids, you may simplify a concept for young children, but shouldn’t be afraid to make them reach. Experts who deal in grief therapy or who counsel young children agree that kids can take a lot of truth, and their understanding is sometimes astonishing. It’s more important to focus on including them in your spiritual thoughts than figuring out how to water down a subject.
 The best way to make God seem bigger, more loving and more real is to make him a part of your regular routine, and the most logical place to start is with what comes out of your mouth. If you’re used to thinking of your spirituality as something separate from your daily interaction with your children, try thinking of it as something that infuses every other thing you do. No matter what else we do in life, we talk more than we do anything else. The most logical move is to talk about God, wherever you go.
 Here are some conversation starters about God with your kids. 
Most of us have thoughts about God throughout the day, and all that is required is opening up about what’s already on your mind.

    You may talk about:

    1. Something you saw on the news that made you think of God or made you want to pray for the person.
    2. A scripture you read today or that went through your head and why.
    3. Something you wrote in your journal or read in a blog that either had to do with God or made you think of him.
    4. A personal difficulty that you’ve been praying about for guidance or direction.
    5. Your latest tidbit about America’s schools, standardized testing, latest news, etc. and how you perceive God thinks of it.
    6. Something you prayed about for yourself or your family, even if it doesn’t involve the kids directly.
    7. Something you discussed with a friend or neighbor and your Catholic take on it.
    8. Something you felt the Lord shared with you, whether it was through an impression, actual words, or answered prayer.
    9. Something you saw in nature that made you think of God’s artistry, or his love, or even his judgment.