Confused about the current “Synod on Synodality” you have seen in your parish bulletin and maybe heard about in passing?
Synodality is what God expects of the Church in the 21st century. // Pope Francis
The meaning of the ten-dollar word “synodality” is “mutual collaborative listening, guided by the Holy Spirit, in which all of the faithful have something to learn from each other, in order to know what God is saying to the Church.”
This Synod// A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity
Traditionally, synods have referred to an assembly of bishops who gather to discuss matters pertaining to the Church and the faithful. The gathering of the Second Vatican council broke new ground in seeking to include the input of theologians, scholars, vowed religious, laity, and ecumenical representatives in a new way.
In the case of the current synod, the bishops will consult uniquely with lay Catholics worldwide to get a sense of their lived experience as well as their needs (where the Church is meeting the needs of the people, and what growing edges exist to meet Catholics living lives of faith in this contemporary).
“Both before and after Vatican II, a theology of the laity was developed. It “emphasized that ‘the Church’ is not identical with her pastors; that the whole Church, by the action of the Holy Spirit, is the subject or ‘organ’ of Tradition; and that lay people have an active role in the transmission of the apostolic faith” (Sensus Fidei 41). The synod of bishops provides an important channel for the voice of the faithful to contribute to the lived experience of a Church still in search of a response from her Risen Lord on those difficult matters that present themselves from time to time” (source).
Under Francis’ papacy, several synods have been called: Syond on the Family (2014), on youth (2018), and the Church in the Pan-Amazon region (2019).
“Consultation of the faithful must be followed by discernment on the part of the Bishops chosen for the task, united in the search for a consensus that springs not from worldly logic, but from common obedience to the Spirit of Christ. Attentive to the sensus fidei of the People of God—‘which they need to distinguish carefully from the changing currents of public opinion’—the members of the Assembly offer their opinion to the Roman Pontiff so that it can help him in his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church…. When it is therefore a question involving the faith itself, the consensus ecclesiae … is the outcome of the working of the Spirit, the soul of the one Church of Christ’ ” (Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio 7).
The “Synod of Synodality” is a two-year process that began in October of 2021 and will last through mid-October 2023. During this time, Pope Francis has opened a process for both listening and dialogue amongst the hierarchy and the laity of the Catholic Church. Bishops around the world are invited to lend an ear to the experience of Catholics everywhere. As our pastor says, to be invited to participate in the work of a Synod is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
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An Epic Compilation
All Catholic parishes have been invited and encouraged to host gatherings of prayer and reflection for parishioners to share their input on questions pertaining to the life of the parish community. In most cases, gatherings have been scheduled and delegates from each parish are assigned the task of compiling and condensing input for submission to the Archdiocese.
The Archdioceses, in turn, have been tasked with reading through the specific parish feedback and creating a document that reflects the themes and input from the archdiocese as a whole. When these documents have been compiled, they will be submitted to the Vatican to help illustrate the strengths and needs of the Church by world-region.
As we might imagine, liturgies and worship have a particular flavor in urban cites that differs significantly from rural parishes. Parishes with schools and lots of young people have different needs than those with an aging population. Catholics in Europe where the church is waning experience community in a much different way than the burgeoning global south. Church communities in areas of poverty have a different lived experience than those with tremendous affluence. Parishes who lean more heavily on the Corporal Works of Mercy have something to share with parishes who lean heavily on Spiritual Works of Mercy, and vice versa.
We Have the Same Goal
As the largest church in the world, it is good and necessary to have the opportunity to gather and communicate about the wants/needs/hopes/stirrings of the Church that serves and guides us. In her wisdom, the Church provides that to us, and we are all better for it. Synods, though not new, afford us a fantastic way to work collaboratively as a body of believers who are diverse and plentiful.
Have you participated in your parishes synod discussion groups?
Whether or not you were able to participate in the conversation, be on the watch for the Archdiocesan document that is compiled for your specific area. Or find the document from an area different than yours and see how they compare.
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