Holy year is a chance to grow in faith, hope, love

Year of Faith is a time to reflect on Church’s path to where we are, look ahead to where we are growing

How many times do we think to ourselves or even say aloud, “Been there, done that,” to indicate our relative lack of interest in something? The Church kept this in mind when she greatly magnified the use of holy Scripture in the lectionary of the revised Liturgy of the Word and also in giving us a multiplicity of eucharistic prayers.

I used to consider the change from Mother Latin to Sister Vernacular and the placement of the celebrant behind the altar as the principal improvements made in our worship patterns, and they certainly are wonderful things. The older I get, however, the more the expansion of the use of Scripture in our public worship seems to be an even greater manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. Variety certainly is the spice of life.

Another device that Mother Church uses to add to the excitement of our lives is to give us, now and then, a special holy year. We began such an episode Oct. 11 as we marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (the First Vatican Council began in 1869).

A holy year is that period of time during which a solemn plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful under certain conditions (Mass, Holy Communion, confession within certain times, and (this is a hard one) detachment from deliberate venial sin). Special faculties are given to confessors during a holy year. Holy years are “ordinary” when they occur at regular intervals (every 25 years in modern times) and “extraordinary” when they are proclaimed for some very special reason, e.g. in 1933 to celebrate the anniversary of the Redemption.

Twenty-five general holy years were celebrated between 1300 and 1950. In pre-Exilic Judaism, every 50th year was a “jubilee” year, or year of remission, in which debts were pardoned and slaves freed. After the Exile and until 70 A.D., the Jews continued to hold a sabbatical year in which debts of fellow Jews were remitted. The popes of the Middle Ages came to apply such a custom spiritually, decreeing a Holy Year or Jubilee, beginning and ending with special sacred ceremonies, which was intended to improve the religious life of the faithful.

The first holy year in 1300 began on the evening of Dec. 24-25 (the end of the old year and beginning of the new, by the reckoning of the Roman Curia) when large crowds visited St. Peter’s Basilica. Others continued to come on the following days, for a tradition had arisen that the first year of every century was especially propitious for gaining special indulgences.

Pope Leo XIII renewed the special solemnities for Holy Year 1900 (as in 1800 the French invasion of Italy prevented its celebration). Pope Leo XII celebrated in 1825 but political troubles prevented having one in 1850.

In 1875 Pope Pius IX was a prisoner in the Vatican and felt obliged to celebrate the jubilee in a very restricted way; Pius IX proclaimed the ordinary holy year in 1925 and an extraordinary one in 1933. The holy year of 1950 found unprecedented crowds thronging to Rome. There was the special Marian Year in 1954. Many of us still treasure the all-blue porcelain statues of our Blessed Lady that Bishop Fulton J. Sheen helped popularize during that year.

And now we come to the Holy Year of Faith: Oct. 11, 2012, until Nov. 24, 2013. What an opportunity! Oct. 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and also was the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I might suggest that if we make the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism our “textbooks” during this Holy Year of Faith, we will grow in faith, hope, and love and God will be served and adored.

I have noticed that many of our parishes have scheduled special events and programs throughout this very special year of faith, and it is my sincere wish, hope, and prayer that the kingdom of God may grow, and grow, and grow. If you find that the entire collection of constitutions of the Council are a bit too formidable, let me suggest that you pick just one and study it in detail.

My favorite is the one on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the first constitution given us by the Council and one that has affected so very much the way the people of God worship Him. To say that this is very important stuff is quite an understatement. It will be a great development in our lives as individual Catholics as well as in our lives as members of a pilgrim people community that if we will take advantage of these wonderful opportunities, we shall have a great holy year of faith.

In closing this month’s column, I would ask your good prayers for the complete healing of the ETC editor’s son, Mr. Will Brewer, who is an active member of Blessed John XXIII Parish at UT. Will, who was seriously injured when a golf cart flipped over on him, was helping at the annual golf tournament that supplements expenses at his alma mater, St. Joseph School. His complete recovery is anticipated, but weeks of rehabilitation lie before him. Please know, Will, that you are in our thoughts and prayers that you will enjoy a speedy recovery. Our Blessed Lady, help of the sick, pray for us all.


Monsignor Mankel is a vicar general of the diocese and the pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville.


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