What is this “Year of Grace”?

By Fr Peter Brock

You’ll have seen Archbishop Wilson’s Letter, on behalf of the Australian Bishops, announcing the Year of Grace [www.yearofgrace.catholic.com.au]
The Bishops have chosen, as a sort of sub-heading, a phrase from Pope John Paul II’s Novo Millennio Ineunte: “starting afresh from Christ”.
So that might be the four-word answer to the question.
At the meeting of our National Planning Team, we brainstormed a slightly longer version:
“Listening to the wisdom of God, the Year of Grace calls us to:
· encounter Jesus Christ in prayer
· seek healing and renewal through repentance
· grow as disciples by cultivating the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that the Church in Australia will continue to be transformed by the power of Christ’s resurrection”.

The Bishops have emphasised the importance of prayer – praying with more focus, perhaps; praying with more stillness; spending a little more time in prayer, or praying a little more frequently; perhaps praying in a style that may be new to us.

They invite us to think about these questions in many contexts – in the public celebration of our liturgies, especially of the Eucharist; in prayer forms such as Holy Hours and Eucharistic Adoration; in times of recollection, meditation or retreat – in the classroom, the staff-room, the parish office, or for the whole parish community.

And, perhaps especially, in the home. Do we say “Grace Before Meals” at home? If not, this might be the time to start. Or perhaps some moments of prayer together at the end of the meal. And if we already recite a standard prayer, perhaps we might take a few seconds more, with some new additional words, or rituals. One of the bishops talked of “tabletop liturgies”.

The Bishops encourage us to turn again to the Word of God in the Scriptures. Is it time to find out what that term “lectio divina” means, and to have a go at it? Can we incorporate some words of Scripture in all our parish meetings? And not only the words, but some moments to “break them open” together – what are they saying to us now, in this room, as we hear them today or tonight?

While the Year of Grace is not “event driven”, there will be some liturgies and celebrations planned to take place during the twelve-month period. In these we will be encouraged, among other things, to reflect on our failures and sins as a community of believers, but also on the gifts and blessings (the “Grace”) that God has given to us.

The Bishops of Australia unanimously endorsed the Year of Grace, and a Coordinator has been appointed in every Diocese in the country. This includes the four Eparchies, or Dioceses, of the Eastern Churches in Australia.

So, we begin the Year of Grace on Pentecost Sunday next year, which is 27 May in the Latin or Western Church and a week later in some Eastern Churches.

You’ll hear more about it in the coming months. Stay tuned!