A Family Affair
Four steps for fathers to live the Year of Faith
What does the forthcoming Year of Faith have to do with me? It’s a legitimate question to which Andrew Lichtenwalner has dedicated a great deal of thought.
The new director of the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lichtenwalner holds a master’s in theology from the University of Dallas and is a doctoral candidate in systematic theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is married for nine years, and he and his wife, Kristen, have a 19-month-old boy.
In this Q&A, he explains how fathers and their families can prepare for the Year of Faith, which starts in October.
Fathers for Good: The Year of Faith begins in October with a Synod on New Evangelization. How are Year of Faith and New Evangelization linked?
Andrew Lichtenwalner: It is for a reason that our Holy Father has situated the Synod on the New Evangelization at the opening of the Year of Faith (Oct. 11, 2012 - Nov. 24, 2013).
The New Evangelization is a call to rediscover and re-propose the fresh originality of the Gospel and of faith in Jesus Christ. The New Evangelization emphasizes witness and outreach to those who are distant from their faith, but it also urges all believers to be renewed in the faith. The ability to witness to Christ depends on our own living faith and confidence in the Lord.
FFG: It has been said that the family will be a focal point of the Year of Faith. How can the average family play a part?
Andrew Lichtenwalner: The Christian family, as the “domestic church,” is a key agent of the New Evangelization. What does this mean concretely? How can the “average family” play a part? Simply by living the Catholic faith joyfully in all circumstances and not being afraid to give a reason for the hope that was infused deep within at Baptism.
Parents set the tone. The family is the first school of faith, where a child first learns about Christ from mother and father. The family is also the first school of prayer: a family who prays together, goes to Mass together every Sunday, and frequents the Sacrament of Confession will be a family more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and more prepared and able to respond to inevitable suffering, hardship, and difficulty by turning to God with faith and hope. Further, the family is the first school of love: a husband and a wife who live faithfully the daily call to the gift of self are able to hand on and model this example for any children with which they are blessed. Their school of faith and virtue touches all who may encounter them: neighbors, other family members, friends, fellow parishioners, colleagues at work or at school, the wider community. No family is perfect, but the New Evangelization does not depend on our perfection or some extraordinary ideal, but rather on ordinary holiness lived daily.
FFG: What can a father do to be active in the Year of Faith/New Evangelization?
Andrew Lichtenwalner: A father should first be a good, holy, joyful and faithful husband to his wife. Second, he should be a good, holy, joyful and faithful father to his children. As a spiritual leader, he puts God and family above work and other interests, and models for his children what holiness and virtue are all about. There is no more important thing a father can do to be active in the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization than to be a father for his children and to live the vocation of marriage and family he is called to.
Thinking concretely about the Year of Faith:
1. A father needs to pray daily, and trust in the providence and mercy of God the Father (see Rom 8:15). The Year of Faith may be an invitation to adjust schedules and workflow to allow more or adequate time for prayer each day.
2. A father can help ensure that the Sunday Eucharist, reading the word of God in Scripture, regular Confession, and a devotional life to Mary and St. Joseph are part of the rhythm of his own family. Perhaps the Year of Faith will be an opportunity for fathers and mothers to lead their family in rediscovering Sunday “rest” and opportunities to pray and spend more time together at the Sunday dinner table.
3. A father might consider with his wife reading the Holy Father’s apostolic letter Porta Fidei and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recommendations to discern how their family might live out the Year of Faith and be open to opportunities that might arise locally, nationally, or globally. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are privileged sources of teaching that are being highlighted in the Year of Faith.
For example, a father might consider including a reading from the Catechism at the Sunday dinner table, perhaps with one Sunday dinner a month involving a more in-depth discussion with the family when possible.
4. A father needs to live his faith joyfully, both inside and outside the home. A joyful witness will go a long way in inviting hearts to open back up to the promise of the Gospel and to the treasure of the Catholic faith.
Read Pope Benedict’s letter on the Year of Faith, Porta Fidei, on the Vatican website.