“A stopped clock is right at least twice a day.” I hope my track record is a bit better than that.
Here, I revisit three predictions about the Synod I made some two years ago.
My predictions then
I predict … at least 3 simultaneous “synods”
- the synod in the media
- the synod as experienced by those actually inside the rooms
- the synod no one hears or cares about
- The synod that will receive the most attention is the synod as reported by the media!
Opposing factions in the Church each have their media outlets. Their focus will be on the premature conclusions based on the hot-button issues being discussed… married clergy, ordination of women, and clerical abuse. Note these issues focus mainly on the clerical dimensions of the Church as we have experienced in our lifetimes. Of course, there will be other issues.
2. A lesser amount of attention will focus on what happens to people inside the various rooms in our parishes, dioceses, continental meetings, and the final meeting.
3. The third synod will be the one no one hears or even cares about.
The facts today
The media has, indeed, focused on the hot-button issues.
The members themselves voted (336 members – 12 against) to send this open letter to the People of God.
Many others have not heard about or, sadly, ignored the Synod on Synodality as it is sometimes referred to.
Below, I present some things that caught my eye in the open letter from the actual participants.
How participants describe their experience
“Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis…Day by day, we felt the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion.
This is not about ideology, but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition.
As the Pope reminded us at the beginning of this process, “communion and mission can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality (…) encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all” (October 9, 2021).
To progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest. This requires a path of conversion on its part, which is also a path of praise: “
I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21)!
The Church also needs to listen to the laity, women and men, all called to holiness by virtue of their baptismal vocation: to the testimony of catechists, who in many situations are the first proclaimers of the Gospel; to the simplicity and vivacity of children, the enthusiasm of youth, to their questions, and their pleas; to the dreams, the wisdom and the memory of elderly people.
The Church needs to listen to families, to their educational concerns, to the Christian witness they offer in today’s world. She needs to welcome the voice of those who want to be involved in lay ministries and to participate in discernment and decision-making structures.
To progress further in synodal discernment, the Church particularly needs to gather even more the words and experience of the ordained ministers: priests, the primary collaborators of the bishops, whose sacramental ministry is indispensable for the life of the whole body; deacons, who, through their ministry, signify the care of the entire Church for the most vulnerable.
She also needs to let herself be questioned by the prophetic voice of consecrated life, the watchful sentinel of the Spirit’s call.
It is “trust” that gives us the audacity and inner freedom that we experienced, not hesitating to freely and humbly express our convergences, differences, desires and questions.
There are multiple challenges and numerous questions: the synthesis report of the first session will
- Specify the points of agreement we have reached,
- Highlight the open questions and
- Indicate how our work will proceed.
“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (Pope Francis, October 17, 2015).
We do not need to be afraid to respond to this call. Mary, Mother of the Church, the first on the journey, accompanies our pilgrimage. In joy and in sorrow, she shows us her Son and invites us to trust. And He, Jesus, is our only hope!
Vatican City, October 25, 2023
(Read the entire three-page letter here).