I have just returned from a week at the synod. My primary reason for being there was to support of the Chair of the Marriage and Family Life Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Peter Doyle, one of two Synod Fathers from England & Wales. However, it was also to be in solidarity with all the families who took part in the pre synod consultations about their lives- their joys and challenges – that fed into the working document, and the interventions made during the synod process. It has been fascinating to be present to the workings of the synod, and to network with synod delegates and lay observers from other countries too, including Germany, Belgium, and Australia, and there are many stories to tell of roof top terrace encounters outside the synod and small group sessions! You will no doubt have heard some yourself. The whole range of tthe messy reality of our human experience was being discussed. Several things struck me afresh, but not for the first time. That we must listen to families and learn from them, and that mercy is not just a pastoral attitude but the very substance of the gospel! The big question is how can we reflect the centrality of mercy in the way we journey together in RCIA with those who come, and indeed, within our own communities? The sense of ‘synodality’ and the vital importance of listening at every level of church life, and particularly to families of all shapes and sizes, within all those relationships, is something that I hope we can capture, or recapture in our ways of being and doing ‘faith’ together. It’s about bearing one another’s burdens, being alongside without all the answers, and standing with. That’s what families do. Can we as church learn to be better at this.?
One Synod Father described the position in the last days of the process: “I have a sense that we are caught at the moment between Abraham and Moses. All of the bishops have a bit of both, but some are more Mosaic than Abrahamic, and vice-versa. Let’s hope the two patriarchs can embrace at the end. Some are anxious the synod will go too far, others that it will not go far enough.” (I say welcome to family life -uncertainty is a key experience in being and raising a family!) He concluded by saying “anxiety has its place, .and can even be creative, but it is hardly enough if we are following the Lord who says now as he always has ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
- How might we be more “synodal” in our parish life, in drawing on the wisdom of everyone, particularly when it comes to RCIA? Listening and discernment are very much the natural dynamic underpinning the process offered in the rite. So, for you, in your setting, what are the benefits of ‘journeying together”?