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Our Attention Turns to Rome
Sr. Patricia Bruno, OP
290th Edition – September 30, 2023 – October 29, 2023
On September 30th thousands of faith-filled people will turn their attention towards Rome. It is on this day that people from every nation will gather in St Peter’s Square for the Taizé Prayer Vigil in preparation for the 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality. For those who cannot attend the Vigil in Rome, multiple vigils will be held throughout the world. Prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom has been a constant component throughout these years of study and participation. October 1, 2023, is the official day The Synod on Synodality Retreat begins. Pope Francis has invited Fr Timothy Radcliff, O.P. (Dominican) to guide this three-day retreat. Fr Timothy is a well-known theologian, educator, author, and former Master of the Dominican Order.
The reporting on the Synod in the United States has varied. Some dioceses have had extensive reporting. In other dioceses, the story and progress of the Synod is another “Story Seldom Heard.” Hopefully, the following information is redundant for you. In other words, I hope you have been able to follow the progress of the Synod. Many parishes have encouraged participation in the Synod process. Parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers have continued to inform their members and have shared the many questions and insights that have arisen during the Synod sessions.
To Refresh Our Memories
The Synod is the most important gathering of the whole Church since the Second Vatican Council. The Synod is a renewal process that will affect every aspect of the Church’s life. It entails an examination of the Church’s very essence, which requires rethinking the identity, the mission, and the reconfiguration of the whole Church. As you can see, it goes much deeper than just examining some of its operational elements. Consultation and consensus-building are essential components of the process. Even though the Synod process might feel new to us, the practice is quite ancient. We hear about the gathering of the whole Church in the Acts of the Apostles and in the early Church official documents. The Synod guided by the Holy Spirit will help all members of the Church live more authentically our Christian vocation. Enlightened by the prayer, conversations, and insights from people throughout the world we will be able to live the demands of the Gospel more authentically.
This session of the Synod will begin on October 4, 2023 in Rome. October 4th has great significance for all of us. It is the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ Feast Day, and the closing of the Season of Creation. This day is celebrated annually by tens of thousands of Christians around the world. It is a day to pray for a deeper appreciation of and the protection of all creation.
As “we” begin the work of the Synod on October 4th, those of us who experienced the Second Vatican Council will notice some dramatic differences between the Council and the Synod. The Synod has 364 voting delegates. Proximately one-third of the delegates were chosen by Pope Francis. The delegates comprise laity, priests, consecrated women, and deacons. Fifty-three of them are women. They will gather in Pope Paul VI’s Hall. There will be approximately ten people at each round table. It is obvious that conversation and discussion are essential and expected components of the Synod process. For those of us who remember the Second Vatican Council these few facts are stunning. The voting members of the Second Vatican Council were all men. Most of them were bishops. They sat in rows, theatre style. They had some observers, but they were silent and could not vote.
This October meeting in Rome is not viewed as the end of the Synod. Rather it is another step in a longer process. Those present will raise priorities that will take further in-depth study and conversation. The results of those findings will be brought to the October 2024 session of the Synod in Rome.
As I said in the beginning, this is the most important Church meeting since the Second Vatican Council. The gathering will listen to and discuss the insights, questions, and hopes of people throughout the world. Most of us will not be able to attend the sessions in Rome, but that does not mean we can’t be present in spirit and prayer. In fact, those who will be discerning the future of the Church rely on our prayers. Our prayers are an essential part of the deliberations and outcomes of the Synod’s decisions.
I hope that each of us will take some time each day this next year to hold the Synod and all those involved in our prayer. One Hail Mary or Our Father each day while we are waiting for the light to change to green, one decade of the rosary while we are stirring the sauce for dinner or walking to the mailbox, would be enough. Holding the Synod in our hearts and minds is essential to the outcome of the Synod. The following prayer is the official Synod Prayer.
We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts. Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it. We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder. Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and Maria Hetherton who have helped in editing this article.