Sunday, 10 October 2021

The Synodal Journey

The BBC are reporting the opening by Pope Francis of the journey towards the Synod of Bishops meeting on synodality under the headline: Pope Franics launches mass consultation on Church reform. That is of course, a gross mis-representation of the intention of the Synodal journey. The BBC reports' citation of a "progessive" and a "conservative" voices demonstrates this mis-understanding:

Some Catholics hope it will lead to change on issues such as women's ordination, married priests and same-sex relationships.

Others fear it will undermine the principles of the Church.

I do recommend reading, instead of the BBC report, the two addresses by Pope Francis in relation to the Synodal journey.

The first is a "moment of reflection" for the opening of the Synodal journey, held in the New Synod Hall on Saturday 9th October. Here Pope Francis speaks about each of the three key words that express more concretely the notion of synodality: communion, participation and mission.

The second is Pope Francis' homily at Mass celebrating the opening of the Synodal journey.

You need to read these in their entirety, if you are to gain a true sense of Pope Francis' intentions with regard to the Synodal process. The BBC report could be covering an event on a different planet! 

The following quotations are only part of the story, though they are the parts that have caught my attention on a quick reading.

How Pope Francis understands the idea of a "listening Church" - prayer and adoration:

The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen.  To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer.  Today how much we miss the prayer of adoration; so many people have lost not only the habit but also the very notion of what it means to worship God!  To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground.....

As we initiate this process, we too are called to become experts in the art of encounter.  Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems, as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another.  Time to devote to prayer and to adoration – that form of prayer that we so often neglect – devoting time to adoration, and to hearing what the Spirit wants to say to the Church.  Time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms, vocations and ministries.  Every encounter – as we know – calls for openness, courage and a willingness to let ourselves be challenged by the presence and the stories of others. 

How Pope Francis understands the idea of "discernment" - adoration, prayer and the word of God:

The Synod is a process of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God.  Today’s second reading tells us that God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  That word summons us to discernment and it brings light to that process.  It guides the Synod, preventing it from becoming a Church convention, a study group or a political gathering, a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Spirit.  In these days, Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models; and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time.  And the direction in which he wants to lead us.

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