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Synod on Synodality: Dare we hope? Asked by a hopeful skeptic!

It's Monday October 9th and I'm writing from a specatcular Jekyll Island, GA. Had no power on Saturday so I couldn't follow what was happening with the last day of reflection on the characteristics of a synodal Church, Module 1. Then I traveled yesterday while participants had the day off and today I've had the chance to catch up on some of what's happened

And I admit to still being a hopeful skeptic. So here's what I am finding so very hopeful. Perhaps you will as well:

  • Circuli minores. Small groups of participants, from differing geographic regions, and of differing states in the Church, all sitting around round tables listening to one another grapple with what it means to be a synodal Church. For a look at the points they were parsing together, go here.

  • The significance of this change in seating. Read PVP friend Bob Choiniere's reflection on this from his first hand view.

  • The focus on prayer, silence, and listening.

  • The spiritual and theological contexts being offered to participants. For texts of these presentations, look here. My hope increased as I read these contextual pieces highlighting how Jesus encountered those his society/culture did not deem acceptable and then positing that the Church must do as he did today. For highlights from today's talks, see PVP Partner, Editor Michael Centore's work for Today's American Catholic.

  • The reminder that this assembly is gathered first and foremost to learn how to practice synodality. They are doing so around various issues that arose from 2-year listening and synthesizing project. These listening sesssions provide the grist for their conversations, but first and foremost, they are learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit speak in the various ways the Spirit is always communicating. They are learning the art of spiritual conversation, and the practice of discernment in common. That's hopeful to me!

  • Spirit Unbounded's synod of the people entitled Human Rights in the Catholic Church which began on 10/8.

And here is where I remain skeptical, which in the interest of full disclosure, is my general disposition. Don't think poorly of me...I temper it with prayer and inform it with all kinds of input! But still, I feel skeptical about

  • The call for formation at all levels of the Church. As a professional religious educator, and as one of the founders of the Pentecost VIgil Project, you'd think this would delight me. But...I am wondering if this will be the excuse for not moving forward, for not actually doing the work that will be necessary to become synodal in mindset, skillset and daily life. I mean, if the claim is not enough people know how so, until everyone is formed, we will do as we have always done...well, that's a recipe for inertia at best, and ignoring the work at worst.

  • No action taken against Cardinal Mueller for violating the call for fasting from engagement with the media during this time of prayer. I admit to being a rule-follower and therefore someone who wants consequences for those who do not...but calling this a matter for his own conscience...a direct violation of the Pope's synod rules? Maybe something more will come. I certainly am not the only one curious about this. Feeds my skepticism.

  • The ability of the delegates to manage the tensions/differences that are already clear, according to Sheila Pires, Vatican Secretary for the Commission on Information. I'm skeptical because this takes a level of trust in the Lord, surrender to the Holy Spirit, repentance from the sin of certainty, and great communication skill to highlight differing points of view and the emotion with which they are held without rhetoric descending into the all-too-familiar polemics of our time. Are those skills in the room? Respected? Utilized? Our history of pastoral practice argues against it.

  • How the presence of Covid (4 cases-NOT 118) will impact these gatherings. We are all over the map in our response-reaction to Covid. Will that somehow influence the interactions? It has already taken some delegates out of the conversation. With what impact?

So there you have it...the hopeful skeptic.

I want to leave you more hopeful than skeptical: the Spirit creates, and creates new things. The Spirit gathers and forms communion, across all sorts of divides. The Spirit gives gifts to all the baptized. The Spirit is the protagonist. So something's happening...and this hopeful skeptic leaves you with that hope!

Don't forget to stop by our website. We're aiming to be your one-stop-shop for Synod coverage, with products and services to assist in unleashing the Spirit of synodality in the Church in the US! And tell a friend...word of mouth is our primary marketing strategy!

Phot credit: Vatican News Service

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