In his recent Apostolic Letter, “The Door of Faith” (Porta Fidei), Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a Year of Faith for Catholics, to be celebrated from October 11, 2012 through November 24, 2013. During this time, Catholics the world over have been asked to examine the roots of their faith and to renew it in the service of the new evangelization.
I would like to share with you two initiatives I have taken to help Catholics and all interested parties enter into the spirit of the Holy Father’s request. The first is a book I have just published entitled, Tending the Mustard Seed: Living the Faith in Today’s World (New City Press, 2013). This book examines faith from a variety of perspectives: “our need for it, our yearning for it, our lack of it, and our hope for it.” It looks upon faith as “a multifaceted reality demanding intellectual assent, personal trust, and selfless, life-giving action” (p. 14). In seven short chapters, it examines faith from the perspectives of call, gift, reason, prayer, suffering, healing, and community. His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has this to say about it: “Just in time for the Year of Faith, Father Billy’s powerful reflections and accompanying discussion questions can be an excellent vehicle for prayer and study groups, RCIA programs, and ongoing faith formation for adults. Each chapter is packed with personal experiences and substantial theological reflection. From the lay Catholic to the theologian, all will benefit richly from this gem of a book.”
My second initiative is a DVD/CD series called Prayer and the Spiritual Life (Now You Know Media, 2013). This series consists of 12 lectures on the fundamentals of prayer and covers such topics as the nature of prayer, the types of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, lectio divina, liturgical prayer, mystical prayer, and Paul’s exhortation to pray without ceasing. Each lecture is about 25 minutes in length and goes to the heart of why prayer is so important for the life of the believer. The lectures explore the centrality of prayer for the Christian life while learning concrete, practical steps for enriching our relationship with God. When preparing these lectures, I was inspired by St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787), the founder of my religious order, the Redemptorists, who wrote: “I say, and repeat, and will keep on repeating as long as I live, that our whole salvation depends on prayer; and therefore, that all writers in their books, all preachers in their sermons, all confessors in their instructions to their penitents, should not inculcate anything more strongly than continual prayer” (Prayer, The Great Means of Salvation).
According to Pope Benedict, “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). It is my hope that, in some small way, these two contributions will be of help all those who wish to deepen their awareness of God’s presence in their lives and rise to the many challenges of living the Gospel in the world today.
The Rev. Dennis Billy, C.Ss.R., is Karl Rahner Professor of Catholic Theology at the Graduate Theological Foundation where he has served since 2004. An American Redemptorist of the Baltimore Province, he holds doctorates from Harvard, The Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum, Rome), and the GTF. He is the author or editor of more than two dozen books in theology and spirituality, and is currently scholar-in-residence and holder of The John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania. (Learn more about Dr. Billy by clicking here.)