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Ready...Set...Go! First step? Get Ready!

"The ongoing synodal process is not only the most important moment in the life of the Catholic Church since Vatican II. It's also the most important moment about Vatican II..." Massimo Faggioli

I'm not one for hyperbole. I don't even really like exaggeration to make a point, except when I'm sparring with my 6-year old grandson. Then it's just great fun to hear him describe everything in terms of volcanos erupting, and the world coming to an end, and something being the grossest thing on the earth or the best thing EVER. So when I came acroos this declaration from esteemed theologian and professor Massimo Faggioli, who has been featured as

an expert throughout these first years of the Synod on Synodality, I stopped cold. It seemed over-stated...exaggerated. But why would someone with his education, experience and esteem bother with hyperbole?

The short answer is, he wouldn't. From his perspective, this work we are engaged in now, learning how to become more synodal, is vital...critical...the most important moment in the life of the Catholic Church since Vatican II. After I determined that he would have every good reason to say so given his education and experience with the Church, I began to wonder how someone who was a child and not Catholic when Vatican II took place, prepare myself to participate in something as monumental as this? What should I be doing? What could I be doing? What are others doing? How do I prepare for the kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit as happened at Vatican II?

In other words, said by someone who loathes being caught unprepared (any kindred spirits out there on this one?), how do I get READY?

It seems to me there are two kinds of readiness that will help me be open to the Spirit. Both are personal. One is intellectual and the other is spiritual. I'm hoping some of you reading this will also share with us in the comments ways to get individuals, parishes, dioceses, organizations, small Christian communities...

So here's one set of steps to prepare and they are largely intellectual/informational. Understand what synodality is. Learn who's going to be there, how the will synod work, and what the purposes are. In other words, be prepared by understanding what's actually, practically, happening. Here are some tools to help you do what I am currently doing.

  1. The Instrumentum laboris, the name given to the document that has been prepared to guide this first universal meeting of the Synod on Synodality. (The second, and right now, final meeting will take place in October, 2024.) This document says that the purpose of the final meeting "will be to continue to animate the synodal process in the ordinary life of the Church, identifying which pathways the Spirit invites us to walk along more decisively as one People of God. The fruit for which we ask at the next Assembly is that the Spirit inspire the Church’s walking together as the People of God in fidelity to the mission that the Lord has entrusted to it. Indeed, the purpose of the synodal process “is not to produce documents, but to open horizons of hope for the fulfilment of the Church’s mission” (DCS, 6). [3] But the purpose of the meeting that begins October 4, 2023 is stated this way: "This body will have the task of discerning the concrete steps which enable the continued growth of a synodal Church, steps that it will then submit to the Holy Father." [10]

  2. The theological documents that have been given to the participants: another voice of the Holy Spirit to be listened to carefully.

  3. Register for a webinar from Yeshua Catholic Leadership Institute on October 3rd that will give you an overview and background.

What else will get me/us READY to participate in the Synod on Synodality? Spiritual preparation. If I am coming to understand anything along this #synodjourney it's that synodality is a deeply spiritual practice. That means I need to get my spirit prepared to be able to hear the Holy Spirit, the one who is the protagonist in this entire endeavor. [IL 17]. How am I doing that? Here are some of my practices. Again, please add yours in the comments, so we can learn together how to journey with the Spirit leading the way.

Prayer of all sorts, but particular prayer that I may be freed from spirits oppositional to the Holy Spirit: pride, arrogance, certainty, fear, fear of change in particular, and apathy.

  1. Reflection with the daily Scripture. The Spirit is speaking in the sacred word. Taking time daily to hear the Spirit's call to me and to us keeps the repentance door open and drives me through the sacramental door.

  2. Celebration of the Eucharist, with a particular focus on the actions of the Holy Spirit throughout this sacred gathering. The 4-part experience of Christ Present in the Eucharist assists me with this.

  3. Exploration of the dignity of baptism and its rights and responsibilities with an eye toward understanding my calling within the movement toward synodality.

  4. Silence into which I expect to hear the Spirit responding to my eternal question: "What do you want of me, Lord?"

So...let's get ready! The universal phase of the Synod on Synodality begins on October 4. On September 30, Christian young people will gather together to pray, learn and grow in ecumenical synodality. Why not join them? Or join with Catholics around the world who will link to their live prayer.

For three days ahead of it, the delegates will be on retreat, preparing their spirits for a profound encounter with Christ really present in the spiritual conversations that are the backbone of this gathering. Pray for them!

Friends, let us prepare ourselves, support the delegates while they are on retreat, and then open ourselves up to the wind of the Spirit blowing across our Church in this most important moment in the life of the Church since Vatican II.

Let's get we don't miss it!

Next week...we'll talk about "getting set!" Schedules, tools, communal prayers, digital gatherings and more. And then it will be "Go!" time.

Come Holy Spirit!

Photo credit: Debbie Stollery Jekyll Island, GA May, 2023

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