ADVENT PASTORAL LETTER
ADVENT PASTORAL LETTER TO THE PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS MEN AND WOMEN AND THE LAY FAITHFUL OF THE DIOCESE
Dear brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Peace be with you!”
All too soon we are again on the threshold of the end of another liturgical and civil year. Our hearts are full of gratitude to God for his merciful love and for his divine assistance throughout the past months, accomplishing for us things often beyond our strength and imagination.
1.The Year of Faith
Following the institution of the Year of Faith, by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we as a diocesan family of God have had the opportunity to launch this year with a solemn celebration at the Minor Basilica in Navrongo. This year, which is meant to help us deepen, renew and live our faith in a world that is gradually turning its back to God and to the spiritual values of our ancestors, is indeed a year of grace for us.
I appeal to you to collaborate with your Pastors and Pastoral agents to derive maximum spiritual benefit from the celebration of this special year of Faith. In particular I exhort both pastors and faithful to welcome the Cross of the Year of Faith which we blessed at the launching ceremony that shall be coming around to your parishes. Receive it with reverence and devotion and spend time to meditate on the meaning and practical implication of this symbol of our faith for your personal lives as Christians.
2. The Season of Advent
This year we mark the season of Advent in the spirit of the Year of Faith. As we begin this holy season our attention is immediately drawn to the Holy Family of Nazareth. This was a family marked by a profound trust in God, in his promises and an enduring loyalty to his will.
Mary’s fiat, “let it be done to me according to your will” (Lk 1, 38), demonstrates her profound faith in the God who has the power to do what he promises. Joseph’s readiness to welcome the promised Son of God and to protect him from danger was also inspired by his deep faith and trust in the God of his Fathers (cf. Matt. 2, 13). Finally, the willingness of the Son of God to submit to himself to the human authority of Mary and Joseph reveals the depth of his trust not only in his human parents but most especially in his heavenly Father (Lk 2, 51-52). The faith and piety of the Holy Family of Nazareth is a model for all Christian families.
3. The Family; a domestic church
During this Year of Faith and in particular during this Season of Advent I urge and encourage all families, especially Christian families to rediscover their spiritual roots inspired by the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The Christian family has been rightly referred to as a domestic church i.e. a place where God dwells in the midst of his people.
I invite all parents and heads of families to take advantage of this year of grace and especially this holy season of Advent to renew and deepen their Christian family spirit. As a family you should make the effort to pray together, for the saying is true “the family that prays together stays together.” Let parents show the lead by encouraging the family to attend, at least, Sunday masses together and endeavour to say morning and evening prayers with their children and wards, teaching them to say grace before and after meals. Let us make God the centre of our family life, creating space for him in our daily busy lives.
As the year of faith is meant to help us deepen our knowledge of the catholic faith, I exhort parents to ensure that their children and wards learn their catechism and basic prayers well both at the home and in the parish. A most sure way of doing this is praying with them and teaching them the basics of the faith at home.
4. The Parish; a community of believers
The pulse of the life of any Christian community is rightly felt at the parish level. During this season of Advent, I invite both pastors and their flock in the parishes, Rectorates and in the chaplaincies to find ways and means of renewing and deepening their common faith. In preparation for Christmas, let us approach the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation with the necessary devotion that it requires. Let us use the occasion to renew our relationship with God and with one another. As part of the renewal of our faith, let us endeavour to deepen our spirituality by embarking upon spiritual exercises that will enhance our commitment to God and to the Church. Besides the adoration of the Cross of the Year of Faith, I encourage parish communities and all faith communities to have common spiritual exercises such as the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, pilgrimages to the Minor Basilica, the Cathedral Church and the Diocesan Marian Grotto in Kongo. In connection with these pilgrimages, I wish to announce that plenary indulgences will be obtained by anyone who visits any of these places during the Year of Faith, having fulfilled all the conditions required for obtaining such indulgences, namely receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, receiving Holy Communion and praying for the intention of the Holy Father.
Furthermore, just as St Peter exhorts in his letter, let us to be ready to account for our faith to people who ask us for the hope that we have (cf 1 Pet 3,15-16), let us endeavour to grow in the knowledge of our faith. In this regard, it might be useful during the year of faith, beginning with the season of advent, to occasionally recite some of the parts of the mass that are often sung, especially the Gloria and the Creed, so as to give us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the deposit of our faith.
5. The Year of Faith and the coming elections
“Faith without good works is dead” (James 2, 14-16).
As we approach the 2012 elections, let our conduct as Christians be inspired by a renewed faith which the Year of Faith offers us. In this light, I urge you, as part of your Christian duty and as an expression of your faith in God, first of all, to pray unceasingly for a successful conduct of these elections.
Secondly, let all who bear the name of Christ and all people of good will show their commitment to peace by their personal conduct in the days leading up to the elections, as well as during the exercise itself and thereafter. Let us conduct ourselves becomingly and inspire others to do the same.
May the Holy Family of Nazareth be our inspiration and strength during this Holy Season of Advent and throughout this year of grace.
Wishing you all a fruitful season of Advent and Christmas
Most Rev. Alfred Agyenta
(Catholic Bishop, Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese)