The first pastoral priority of the Diocese of Christchurch is “Growing in Holiness”. In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a letter to the whole Church called Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the Third Millennium). This most beautiful letter invited all the members of the Church to “gaze on the face of Christ” and strive for Holiness.
Dame Betty O'Dowd was a great gift to our diocese and beyond, and did much to form people in the faith. She was a great contributor to Inform, though her articles were often unattributed. She wrote two articles for Inform around that time, about this letter and the call to Holiness. Twenty years since these words were written, they are still very relevant today. Her second article is reproduced below with a small amount of editing.
“Pope John Paul II's letter At the Beginning of the New Millennium has been described as a great symphony of spirituality. We live in a time when people turn away from doctrinal formulations and ecclesial commitments. In our secular, post-Christian society, religious beliefs are largely lost. What has replaced them is a constant, restless search for new "spiritualities". In this context, the Pope has set out for us the fullness of Catholic spirituality, the vision which has come down to us from the Apostles and has animated faith-filled lives throughout the centuries between. It comes to us in this Letter with extraordinary freshness, in the words of a man whose own whole life has been spent contemplating the face of Christ.
This letter is addressed to us all. Perhaps more urgently than anything else this Pope has written, this letter needs to be read and studied by lay people. We hear incessantly about new roles and responsibilities for the laity in the Church. What this letter makes clear is the prerequisite responsibility of every person, lay or clergy, to respond to the call to holiness their Baptism offers them. Even more to the point, this Letter shows us in practical terms how to go about it. Section II is called A Face to Contemplate. In it, the Pope shows us most movingly how we can find Christ in the Scriptures, the Christ who loves us so deeply and inexplicably, who seeks our companionship. In the next Section, called Starting Afresh From Christ, the Pope invites us to ask the question put to St Peter after his Pentecost speech: "What must we do?" He answers it by showing us what it means to become holy and how to go about learning to pray more deeply and intensely. He offers us the Psalms as the ideal source of Christian prayer, not only Spirit-inspired prayers, but prayers that teach us how to pray. These two sections alone are worth any effort we put into reading them, reflecting on them, studying them with others in a group. Click this link to view the Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte There can be few of us who do not need to deepen our faith and draw closer to Christ. It would seem particularly rash in the faith-testing times we live in to pass up an offer like this.”