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Today, Oct. 11, has double significance for Catholics. 

  • We celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.
  • We mark the start of a Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

As we said last week, it's a great time for us to commit ourselves to becoming more familiar with the core teachings and practices of the 2000-year-old church to which we belong.

When the pope declared the Year of Faith last October, he said he hoped it would give "new impetus to the mission of the whole church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ."

People who have read The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus or attended aCatholic S3 Leading Like Jesus Encounter will recognize how closely that hope corresponds to the mission and vision of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute.

When Pope Benedict announced the Year of Faith, he proclaimed with confidence: "It will be a moment of grace and commitment to a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him and proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time."

Of course, that's a worthy goal. But of course, that will happen only if Catholics turn a bit of their attention to their faith. Catholics with just a basic understanding of their faith will be pleasantly surprised how helpful their church's teachings and traditions can be in keeping grounded as effective Jesus-like S3 leaders.

One does not need to develop the devotion of a monk or devote the time of a contemplative nun to respond favorably to the pope's invitation to grow in our faith.

As we suggested last week, setting aside a little time to read the documents of Vatican II -- especially the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,Lumen Gentium -- is a great way to learn more and develop a greater appreciation for our faith. The link above gives you access to a free copy on the Vatican website. You can also download free copies of all the other council documents from the Vatican website or you can order them in paperback book form or for Kindle.

The Year of Faith, which goes from this year Oct. 11 through the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 24, 2013, would also be a good time to become familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is available free online or in hardcover and e-book formats.

Readers can follow the catechism's outline to probe deeper into the teaching of their faith or they can quickly locate the church's teaching about specific topics which especially interest them. The Catechism provides another way to become more familiar with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council because the council documents serve as the basis for the Catechism and are frequently quoted throughout.

But reading isn't the only way to develop a deeper appreciation of our faith. Another approach is to make a greater effort to develop good habits through which one's faith can grow and deepen.

Here are the nine habits suggested in The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus.You might want to start the Year of Faith by picking one and working on it through Advent, which concludes with the celebration of Christmas. Then with New Year looming, you might want to choose another habit on which to focus until Lent begins or ends.

  • Practice solitude
  • Pray daily
  • Read scripture often
  • Worship and receive the sacraments regularly
  • Explore the lives and reflections of saints and Christian scholars.
  • Consider sacramentals and devotions that flourish in the church
  • Accept and model unconditional love
  • Serve others
  • Build community

However you decide to make the new Year of Faith special for you, as we said last week: "Enjoy. Grow."

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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