Chapter talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – A Synodal Church – 2/6/22

Chapter talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – A Synodal Church – 2/6/22


As Fr Elias mentioned in chapter last Sunday, Archbishop Kurtz has invited, in solidarity with Pope Francis, the Order of Cistercians with members in his diocese, to participate in the synodal process during the next several months. By a note to the dialogue committee, Fr Elias suggested that that we discuss how we might do this.

Fr James, who heads up our dialogue committee has given us a note, suggesting that the community dialogue on what we have experienced during the retreat given by Bishop Erik, especially his final conference that was the culmination of the whole retreat. As soon as our dialogue committee can get together, there will be a dialogue related to what took place during our retreat especially in view of our 175th anniversary coming up.

Since Fr Elias has suggested that we take a careful look at the Synodal process I thought to comment on this, this morning. A lot has appeared in various periodicals and newspapers so you are already familiar with what is taking place in preparation for the Synod that is to take place in 2023. There is a way in which I think monks are already familiar with this process in that we have practiced what St Benedict says in chapter 3 of his Rule, about Summoning the Brothers for Counsel. When anything important is to be done in the monastery, the abbot shall call the whole community together and himself explain the matter. The reason why all are to be called for counsel, is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger. The brothers are to express their opinions with all humility. So the idea of a synodal Church is not at all foreign to our way of life.

In his letter to Fr Elias, Archbishop Kurtz tells of how:

“the word synod is rooted in Greek and means “same road” or journeying together.” Through this synodal process, Pope Francis would like to invite every Catholic to prayerfully reflect and learn together about how God is calling us to be as the Church in the third millennium. Enlightened by the Word of God and united in prayer, we will be able to discern the processes to seek God’s will and pursue the pathways to which God calls us—toward deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world.”

He goes on to say how this synodal process is “designed to gather the wisdom and insights of our clergy, religious, and lay faithful..” The bishop is “inviting the religious orders serving in [his] Archdiocese to participate by holding a listening session” in their communities. Eventually this “will conclude with a written report reflecting the fruits of these conversations that will be submitted to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2022.

The basic purpose of all this consultation is to follow up on the Church’s “renewal” proposed by the Second Vatican Council as both a gift and a task. “Our journeying together” is, in fact, what most effectively enacts and manifests the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God, as is said in the preparatory document for a Synodal Church.

How to move ahead with this request of Pope Francis and Bishop Kurtz will be worked out in the dialogue committee. The Bishop’s letter and various document related to how best to carry out this consultation will be put out in the Scriptorium for your perusal.