+A SYNODAL CHURCH, A SYNODAL COMMUNITY ChapTalk 13 Feb.’22
This morning I would like to offer some further comments on what is taking place in communities everywhere in preparation for the coming Synod in 2023. In the Vademecum For the Synod on Synodality document which is the official handbook for listening and discernment in the local churches we have an opening prayer to the Holy Spirit which begins like this:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With you alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
This document along with another called the Preparatory Document are complementary and should be read in tandem with one another. This document conveys that:
“In creating the opportunity for listening and dialogue on the local level through this Synod, Pope Francis is calling the Church to rediscover its deeply synodal nature. This rediscovery of the synodal roots of the Church will involve a process of humbly learning together how God is calling us to be as the Church of the third millennium.“
There are obvious reasons why the Church is seeking to rediscover its synodal roots for as you are well aware, there is a lot of polarization going on in the Church and we are well aware of how we differ among ourselves in how we perceive the monastic life should be lived today. Our efforts yesterday morning to discuss our experience of the retreat by Bishop Erik was a graced occasion but it also brought about some soul searching in how we disengage us from living our life of prayer. It was a good example of what living in a synodal Church asks of us as it entails a lot of careful listening to different perspectives than our own and letting ourselves enter into dialogue with them. What distracts my prayer life is often different from what gets in the way of another’s. To see this and to come to greater compassion for one another is what deepens our relationships and makes us living members of the Church.
The Preparatory Document that is complementary to the Vademecum asks the basic question of how to live as a synodal Church today in a way that will enable us to proclaim the Gospel entrusted to us.
“Addressing this question together requires listening to the Holy Spirit, who like the wind “blows where it wills; you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (Jn 3:8), remaining open to the surprises that the Spirit will certainly prepare for us along the way. Thus, a dynamism is activated that allows us to begin to reap some of the fruits of a synodal conversion, which will progressively mature. These are objectives of great importance for the quality of ecclesial life and for accomplishing the mission of evangelization, in which we all participate by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation.”
What Pope Francis and all the Bishops are seeking to set into motion is a fresh encounter with the working of the Holy Spirit in the earliest years of the Church but all throughout its history. It is an effort to reach out to those on the margins for various reasons, many of whom we may know from our lived experience. Not least, it is a clear effort at “recognizing the appreciating the wealth and variety of the gifts and charisms that the Spirit liberally bestows for the good of the community and the benefit of the entire human family.”
There are more of these objectives listed in the Preparatory Document that can’t be presented here but I encourage you to put time and effort into reading the documents put out in the Scriptorium. When and how, through dialogue, we will make our own contributions to the work of the diocese is to be seen. One cannot help but be thankful for all the efforts being made to give witness to a more synodal Church as it offers a great potential for the future.