The Last Word >> Old Janus and a New Year – looking both ahead and behind
by Most Rev. Kenneth J. Povish
January takes its name from the old Roman god Janus, a pagan deity who had two faces, one looking ahead and one looking backwards. He was the Romans’ “god of the doors,” and so also their ready-made god of the first month, the doorway to the new year. Most modern European languages named the first month after Janus. It is Gennaio in Italian, Enero in Spanish, Janvier in French, Januar in German. The Slavic peoples, who were the last Europeans to be converted to Christianity, must have taken exception to naming the months for pagan gods. In Polish, for instance, the first month is Styczen, whose root word means a change in time or order. But old Janus, who could see both what was ahead and what was behind him, remained the favorite with the ancestors of most of us. He gave rise to the practice of New Year’s resolutions. We look back in retrospect on the year(s) past, and we make resolutions for improvement in the year ahead. You couldn’t select a more appropriate time to launch FAITH Magazine than January 2000. It’s the first month of the first year of a new century and a new millennium. And old Janus also typifies, in a way, the perspective of FAITH Magazine. Because our Faith is ancient, going all the way back to Abraham and to the Apostles, FAITH will sometimes be looking back to the past. But FAITH will mostly focus on what is in front of us and around us, on what the future holds for us, and how living and sharing the Faith is important. As one who has been a weekly columnist for diocesan newspapers since March of 1954 (45 years!), I was honored and pleased to be asked to have The Last Word every month in FAITH Magazine. I believe there is still need for a Catholic newspaper in a diocese for information, but I do not believe a Catholic newspaper is a very effective means of evangelization. Today’s society and today’s people are different from the world and the population of 1954. “The Information Age” has changed the way we think, the way we learn, the way we work, the way we play, the way we are moved, and the way we move others. FAITH Magazine’s new format, new style and new approach to the proclamation of the Gospel will be more effective than pages of newsprint. Read it. Keep it on your coffee table. Share it. Talk about it. If asked or moved to do so, offer your experiences and insights to the new magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.