Let’s celebrate St. Francis of Assisi by blessing the animals. Right. That was the intent for last Monday, and we pulled it off... pretty much. The animals showed up, mostly great dogs and a couple of cats who doubtless were wondering what on earth they had gotten into. All went well.
Even Honey, the office ruler, was a perfect hostess. Sadly, the pizza folk, who shall remain nameless, turned out to be the only glitch and we went pizza-less. I may never know why. That probably worked for my waistline, but I hope our kids and parents weren’t too disappointed.
Having that special little gathering meant a lot since we have been devoid of moments like that for so long. Speaking of gathering...
There is an unfamiliar word working its way into our vocabulary, and its going to be there for the next couple of years. The word is “Synod.”
Etymonline.com offers us a definition of the word: ...from syn- "together" (see syn-) + hodos "a traveling, journeying; a manner or system (of doing, speaking, etc.); a way, road, path,"...
Pope Francis has been calling Synods of church leaders together to discuss various topics over his tenure. What is interesting is that this current synod is a gathering called to assess the very process of gathering itself. In other words, how well to we really come together as members of the Church? How well do we do at interchanging the gifts God gives us.
Sister Nathalie Becquart is the first women secretary of the Synod of Bishops. In a lengthy article, “Women in the Life of the Church,” in the October issue of America magazine, Sister is quoted as saying, “...though baptism, all the baptized are equal in dignity. Synodality is about how to implement this fundamental equality that doesn’t suppress diversity of ministry, of roles, the role of pastors and bishops, but how you live that as a service, in the service of the community in which everyone is equal.”
The specific context of her thoughts is the role of women in the church, but has a broad underpinning of equality and dignity of persons, all Spirit-endowed persons. That’s us.
The America article notes that “synodality” (i.e. the process of gathering,) “the model of governance advocated at the Second Vatican Council and championed by Pope Francis, in which bishops and lay people speak freely - with parrhesia, or boldness, as Pope Francis often says – about the issues facing their communities and where they believe the Holy Spirit may be calling them, with the goal of making decisions together.”
Once again, I don’t want to get lost in the weeds here, but in many ways, I think we have been learning new things about ways to gather together for the last nearly 60 years since Vatican II. At least, that’s what I see from my perspective which has me ministering for most of those years. We have Pastoral Councils, Priests’ Senates, Diocesan Councils, diocesan Synods on various topics...
At various times over the years, I found myself saying we’ve got to the point where ‘our meetings have meetings.’ You can get tired of hearing yourself talk, but if you stop altogether, what have you got? A black hole, a vacuum, a chilling isolation that morphs into the worst of human conditions.
The current synod business is challenging the whole Church, from bottom to top to see just how well we listen to each other and to our world, to ask ourselves how well we are bringing Jesus to the worlds in which we live.
I confess that there many of us in my age bracket who might be tempted to say, “Hey, I’m all for talking together. Now let the younger folk talk and act because I’ve done my share.” I don’t think we can say that. Don’t the people who come after us need to have some sense of what we have learned – be it good or bad? And do we really think we know all we need to know about getting to heaven? I know I don’t. Let me learn new things through learning new way to be faith family.