1. What is the Year of Grace and from where did the idea
The Year of Grace begins on 27 May, the Feast of Pentecost, and
runs until Pentecost 2013. I don't think anyone would be surprised
to know that the Bishops have been reflecting on the Australian
Church, considering seriously both its challenges and its
blessings. In this context they've been wrestling with how to lead
the church into the future.
The Year of Grace is the outcome of that reflection. And
personally, I think it is at once a simple and brilliant
initiative! Essentially the Year of Grace is an invitation to
everyone in the church to join the Bishops in refocusing our lives
on Jesus. So they're calling us back to the heart of our identity.
Any group - business, sporting group, welfare agency, family -
needs to stay focused on what is at the heart of its shared life or
work, particularly when times are tough.
The primary aim of the Year of Grace is to know Jesus. The Bishops
describe the year as more about prayer than study; more like a
retreat than a program; more about conversion or change than
education. You could say it is a year long pilgrimage in which we
are invited to declutter, to travel lightly and more slowly, so
that we wake up to what is around us, and become more attentive to
A key skill for the Year of Grace is listening to God's word - in
prayer, in scripture, in liturgy and in life. Of course, listening
to God is risky business. The co-ordinator of the Year of Grace in
Hobart has called it 'a year of living dangerously' because who
knows what God will ask of us?
The Bishops are inviting us to ask of everything: What has this
got to do with Jesus?
Imagine asking this of every item on a meeting agenda. Imagine
what new focus it might bring to the discussion. Imagine pausing to
ask that question the next time you are asked to do something and
you're not sure how to respond. Imagine pausing to consider it the
next time you get trapped in one of those conversations that is
more about knocking someone down than building someone up. What
might happen if you pause to ask it when your teenage child is in
trouble? What would life and our society be like this time next
year if all who believe in Jesus paused to ask that question once a
day throughout the Year of Grace?
2. Is it just for Catholics?
'Yes' and 'no'. Jesus doesn't belong to Catholics, so there's an
invitation for all Christians to refocus on Jesus and develop their
relationship with him.
The Bishops have let the other Christian churches know about the
Year and they are inviting us to consider its ecumenical
possibilities. I know some of our priests have already talked about
the Year with other ministers in their area and the response has
been very positive.
I think too that the Year of Grace could be a reminder to us, as
individuals, as groups, as members of any religious tradition, to
push the pause button and consider what we need to do to refocus on
what is at the heart of life. We could all shape the Year of Grace
focus question to speak to us: What has this got to do with - love,
compassion, justice, peace, truth, community - fill in the
3. What's your understanding of the term
I saw grace the other day. A woman who had spent endless hours in
a volunteer capacity planning an important event was spoken to in a
rude and ungracious way. She responded with great grace. When I
talked to her she said, "When someone is less than nice to me, I
think that maybe the last person who spoke to them may have been
hurtful and I am just the next one in the chain. The chain can
always stop with me."
For me, 'grace' captures a simple and wonderful truth - God loves
me, as I am, and is with me, always and in everything. God won't
stop loving me, no matter how badly I stuff up. Everything in life
is God's free gift, from the beauty of nature to the faces of
family and friends and the strangers I meet each day. God is with
me in all the tough parts of life, strengthening me to be more than
I imagined I ever could be: in pain and sickness, in loneliness and
broken relationships, when life doesn't go the way I hoped and when
I am treated badly or unjustly. And God is there for everyone in
the same way.
4. How might people respond to this
The Year of Grace is an invitation so it is up to individuals and
communities to decide if, and how, they wish to respond. As Bishop
Michael Putney says, there is no program, just a thousand
opportunities! That's its challenge and blessing. No one is telling
us what to do. It is up to individuals and communities to work out
how they can refocus on Jesus so our lives and all our doings
emerge afresh from him.
I am amazed at the initiatives people are already taking. There
are conversations happening about grace and faith and spirituality
and people are asking questions they wouldn't have asked without
In practical terms, a community might respond simply by using the
Year of Grace focus question - What has this got to do with Jesus?
Individuals might commit to asking that question every day. People
might build some quiet time into their day, even five minutes. Some
might make a retreat. Families might make a pilgrimage to their
sacred places and tell the children the stories that have formed
the family over generations. There might be some division or hurt
in the life of an individual, a family or a community that would
benefit from some healing action.
There will be some organised events, special liturgies and
national e-conferences in which people will be invited to
5. What are your hopes for the Year of Grace in our
I hope that we seize the opportunity the Year of Grace gives us to
'wake up' to the grace that is all around us and that this might
help us to live more gracefully. I hope too that the Year of Grace
will be an opportunity for the Church of Maitland-Newcastle, marked
by scars and blessings, to undertake a spiritual journey into its
heartland where it will wait and listen for God's fresh start and
To find out more about the Year of Grace visit www.yearofgrace.catholic.org.au, P Louise on
4979 1135 or E email@example.com