“Nice to meet you” – Fellow parishioners, new Cardinals and 450 Synod Delegates
I thought last week’s “Nice to meet you” about Michael Fitzpatrick, our generous, talented musician at Stella Maris was brilliant, as are all the “Nice to meet you” profiles on parishioners in all four communities of this friendly, warm, welcoming and prayerful very big parish. It’s also in the pews and after Mass each Sunday that all of us can be saying ‘nice to meet you” and getting to know each other better – a synodal parish.
The big news at the moment is from Rome – the creation of 21 new Cardinals last Saturday (nice to meet you all!!) and the start of the much anticipated Synod with the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.
Synods are a fruit of Vatican II when a representative group of Bishops from around the world gather every few years to discuss important issues in the life of the Church. The big difference about this Synod is it has involved two years of preparation, starting with consultation in parishes when we had the opportunity to share our perspective on key issues, and when for the first time not only Bishops but the lay faithful as members of the 450 delegates from all over the world who will have a wide range of views on many important issues. The Synod will meet all this month and reconvene again in October 2024, after which the Pope will share with us in a Papal document the fruits of the Synod.
What did Pope Francis say in his Homily at the Opening Mass of the Synod last Wednesday, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, 4 October 2023? After cautioning against relying on “human strategies or ideological battles” he urges “unity and friendship”. He said: “the primary task of the Synod”. (is) to refocus our gaze on God, to be a Church that looks mercifully at humanity; a Church that is united and fraternal, that listens and dialogues; a Church that blesses and encourages; that helps those who seek the Lord; that lovingly stirs up the indifferent; that opens paths in order to draw people into the beauty of faith. A Church that has God at its centre and is not divided internally and is never harsh externally”.
Pope Francis told the Synod delegates we need to be a Church that “does not impose burdens” and instead “repeats to everyone “come, you who are weary and oppressed; come, you who have lost your way or feel far away; come, you who have closed the door to hope, the Church is here for you.’
At the opening session later in the day, Pope Francis told the delegates St Francis “did not criticise or lash out at anyone” but instead “took up only the weapons of the Gospel: humility and unity, prayer and charity”, and he encouraged the 450 delegates “Let us do the same.”
One priest at the three day Retreat prior to the Synod said the Retreat was like a Gospel experience of the Transfiguration which he called “a Retreat Jesus gave his closest disciples before they embarked on the first Synod in the life of the Church when they walked and talked with Jesus to Jerusalem. He said the Apostles may have felt they didn’t achieve anything except to witness the terrible death and then the resurrection of Jesus. But then they took the Gospel message to the world. May this historic Synod help the Church to be united and effective in that same mission today. Pray all October for Pope Francis and the Synod.
Fr Brian Connolly
Prayer for the Synod
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.