The relationship is the thing.

It's that way in marriage, and it's that way for the Year of Faith. Both require only one thing: that I encounter my true love and renew my bond with him, and live a life that reflects the depth of that love.

I first met my husband when I was 16. A mutual friend introduced us—during a fire drill, of all things—as we stood outside on the front lawn of our high school waiting for the "all clear" to go back inside. Our friend wanted to introduce us because we were both into playing guitar. Turns out, I had already seen the boy before, and I had at least one class with him, but I had never spoken to him. You could say I had known of him, but I didn't know him.

The "him" was Bob. And now I speak to him every day, and I know him very well, and in October we'll be married 30 years.

Ours was a long slow burn over a period of years of deepening friendship and eventual marriage. Over the years we've raised three children, held numerous jobs, and lived every aspect of the vows we took: we've been richer and poorer, we've navigated sickness and good health, and we've seen good times and bad. And this year we get to celebrate it all as we come upon this anniversary. This is a time of joy and gratitude.

I realize how precious this has been, despite the work and fidelity that it has taken to preserve it. But really, what a grace it is, to know, and love, and belong. And, what a blessing to renew our faith in this relationship.

Similarly, this October 11th marks the beginning of The Year of Faith that the Catholic Church embarks on through November 23, 2013.

This day in church history commemorates two great anniversaries. The first is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the second is the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both milestones worthy of exploration.

Why do we need a Year of Faith?

Benedict XVI explains, "Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ" (Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, 2).

The true task of the Year of Faith is so simple we might miss it: it is a call to be in a relationship with Jesus—not to just know of him, but to know him.

Faith practice is like a marriage that has many good and holy distractions: children, work, worship, and any number of special events in the course of a year. Yet the heart of the thing is the relationship of the lovers at its center. It all begins with an encounter with another person, and the development of an on-going committed relationship that leads to fruitful love.

Everything about the Year of Faith should point to Jesus and flow from him.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for this special year as an invitation to "an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world" (Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, 6). If we only know of Jesus, let this be our year to risk knowing him better, to grow in friendship that leads to intimacy with the Lover of our soul.

During the Year of Faith, we'll discover many special events, and many recommendations will be offered with regard to spiritual practice, evangelization and catechesis, and service to church and the world at large. (My next column on October 11th will list many resources for observing the Year of Faith.)

But all of it means nothing without that first level of attachment and connection: a personal encounter with Christ that leads to communion with him.

"FATHER . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (The words of Jesus in John 17:3, and the opening words of the prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)