Today I offer for your reflection the four and fifth priority submitted by the Church of North America – the Catholic Church of the United States and Canada – to the agenda of the Roman Synod of October 2023.
Priority Four: Addressing the unity and communion of the Church in the midst of various kinds of polarization and division. Some of the polarization arises within the Church, other originates in the wider society and are transposed into the Church. How do local churches promote a unity, rooted in Baptism and nourished by the Eucharist? How do we grow into seeing ourselves as “people of the Book and people of the Cup” as Pope John XXIII declared. Long before any racial, ethnic, social, sexual, economic, political or ideological consideration, we are identified as the People of God, a people who finds its identity and meaning in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Baptism.
Priority Five: The Church must go out to the peripheries. The Church is called to be outward looking. We hear the call of Pope Francis to go out credibly to the margins. It is easy in an affluent society like North America to become indifferent to those who are poor or ostracized. The Church is always a missionary Church, a people called to go out. We cannot wait for people on the margin to come to the Church door – they won’t, they do not experience welcome. The members of the Church must “go out”. In one sense, the meaning of the Mass is truly found in the final challenge with which we end each Mass, “Let us go forth to love and serve the Lord.”
These five priorities are culled from thousands of consultations having taken place in Church basements, classrooms, auditoria, and wherever two or three gathered in “His name”.
The synodal process has not been perfect, but it has been good. Pope Francis told the bishops of the world to keep their mouths shut and just listen, listen to hearts and minds of the rank and file Catholic – practicing and non-practicing; listen to those divorced and civilly remarried without annulment who have been shunned and excluded; listen to the LGBTQ+ Catholic who finds no welcome and no home in his/her/their Church.
The name of synodality is “Listen”.
Fr. Steve Adrian