Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
The Synod on Synodality is a subject that most people think they can’t get their minds around. This is principally because synodality is not a word that the Church has used seriously for centuries. It is still very much alive in the ecclesial life in the Churches of our sisters and brothers in the East, both Eastern Catholic as well as Orthodox.
It is based on this idea that, as we have become the Body of Christ, the Body of Christ has a voice that should be listened to. To not listen is to say we don’t really believe that it is real in the first place or that membership might be a voice, but no vote. So why say anything?
Pope Francis is trying to return the Church from an institution of a monologue to a living Body that is in dialogue. Dialogue requires two things: the admission that the “other” actually might have something worth hearing and the openness to hear it. Change is something that is directed by the Holy Spirit when we are together. He doesn’t work in our isolation because, ultimately, we will not agree when our humanness moves him aside. There can be no dialogue without both speaking and hearing.
The whole idea that there needs to be a Synod on Synodality itself underlines the fact that we, as a Church, are not familiar or even comfortable with these premises. The recent “listening sessions” last year seemed to illustrate this: the perfunctory listening happened, and the results for dioceses were condensed into a few pages and passed on to Rome. Boxes checked, we have moved on to more important things.
Mainly, what we heard from those who were speaking is that the Church is either not doing what she should be doing or doing it badly. True, it was not a complete dialogue – there was only listening, right? The next step is that we must look at what was said and prayerfully determine if we seek healing. I guess that is the agenda for those who are participating in October.
I was thinking about this a lot this week. It is easy to say the Church is failing in its mission. The parish is not providing what we need. Our children and youth are leaving the faith. There is a crisis of basic Catholic teachings, and our adults don’t know what they don’t know.
We all agree on what the Church or parish should be doing. But the deeper question is: Who is the Church? Who is the parish?
It is you.
We have homeless people living behind our brand-new Whole Foods. We have people living outside the sacraments just because they don’t realize they don’t have to. We have alienated too many people by demanding conversion before offering mercy and compassion. We have so much outreach we might be doing but don’t have a building to do it in.
At the time I write this, we begin teaching our children religious education program classes this weekend, and eight classes will not be able to start because we don’t have adults to teach them. Let’s own this, Body of Christ!
The Lord be with you,