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Synodality: Fluff or Foundation?

Photo Unsplash/Patrick Schneider

It snowed here overnight. When I went to bed, there were ice pellets gathering on the coldest spots around our house. When I awakened, somewhere around 4 inches of snow has frosted the landscape, turning it from an endless vista of brown and gray to a frosted wonderland of shapes, angles, and outlines. Sharp edges are softened. It's light, despite the cloud cover. And it's not falling off the branches because it's very cold and very still. And yet, in a couple of days, the fluff will be gone, and the endless brown and gray will return.

All of this sparked a reflection on where we find ourselves as a Church with respect to synodality. Here in the United States, synodality seems to be a lot like snow. Attention is showered upon it during deadlined times. And then it disappears, and we are left with "the way we've always done things" punctuated by a lot of time and money focusing on Indianapolis, IN from July 17-21, 2024. For more on this gathering, go to their site. So, is synodality fluff, like the frosted trees after a snowfall, or is it foundational, like the very trees themselves?

We, the baptized, will decide this. Perhaps this is why at least some influential clergy are openly opposed to synodality: they do not want the baptized to have the kind of influence that comes when synodality is the way of the Church in the third millennium, to reference Pope Francis. But let me say this again, we the baptized will decide if synodality is the way of the Church in the United States in the third millennium.

Why am I asserting this? There are several reasons.

  • There are more of the baptized then there are of the clergy. So, if we choose to follow the Pope's lead while our clergy does not, we remain in communion with the Church while learning how to be synodal by doing it.

  • We hold the purse strings. In the United States, money is the voice most listened to. You've heard the phrase, "Follow the money." It's the most influential voice. And the baptized can use it to influence leaders.

  • We can learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit, discern direction and then move in those directions. The Spirit will empower leaders, inspire existing leaders and light the way. Poet Antonio Machado says it this way,

Walker, your footsteps

are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

If this is the case, where do we go from here?

  1. The US Bishops Conference is asking every diocese to hold listening session (2-3) during Lent. Participate if given a chance. Watch for information from your diocese. It should be coming soon.

  2. Read the Synthesis Report, and become familiar with the proposals within it. Those proposals are areas in which we can get started now, becoming more synodal. So figure out what you can begin to do and do it.

  3. Talk with your pastor about hosting Conversations in the Spirit in your parish so that more people can have an experience of this method of listening to the Holy Spirit. Just learning what this is and want to know how to do it? Check out this outline. Looking for some help designing and facilitating a process. Contact us!

  4. No interest in your parish? Contact us! We're gathering other opportunities for the People of God to participate in Conversations in the Spirit around both the questions that will provide input to the October, 2024 delegates and around other questions about which we need the Spirit's guiding light.

  5. Pray. We are a people learning how to listen to the Lord, speaking today through the Spirit. We believe the Spirit is guiding us, and trying to guide our Church. So let us pray, with the Scriptures using Lectio Divina as the Church is recommending in this time. Practice periods of silence. Discover the power of silence in prayer. Let us worship the Lord in Eucharist, communing with Him as members of his body.

We make this road by walking. Our Church will become synodal to the extent that we, the baptized, begin to walk together, embracing synodality's principles and practices. And you are not walking alone, even if no one around you seems yet ready to go! We are here with you, doing all the things listed above and more. So stay in touch. Share with us your experiences. Participate with our partners. Tell us what you need. Pray for and with us. But above all else, GO! Otherwise, this will be just fluff rather than the foundation Pope Francis intends this to be.

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