After such a long time of preparation from the first mention and through to the days of the Diocesan parish groups, the first week of the Synod on Synodality is complete and we are now entering the second week.
What has been powerfully evident has been the very firm grounding in prayer - the Synod is, after all, a spiritual process more than anything else.
The week began with a three day spiritual retreat for the Synod participants, held in a retreat house outside Rome at a place called Sacrofano. The participants were offered two spiritual meditations daily, one by Benedictine Sister Maria Grazia Angelini, and the other by Dominican priest Fr Timothy Radcliffe. Fr Radcliffes’s meditations offered a degree of insight into Scripture and a spiritual overview which was astonishing - an opinion which seems to be shared by many people who have commented on them since. (All these meditations are available online and arehighly recommended.)
As the first session of the Synod opened, Pope Francis was present. He and Cardinal Grech, the general secretary, outlined the process to be followed so that everyone was clear on what was being asked of them. The methodology which was described included a lot of space for prayer and reflection, even being planned in as part of the discussion process itself. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, since the Holy Father has consistently reminded us that “without prayer, there can be no Synod” - something which the Diocese of Motherwell has continued to emphasise when speaking of the Synod.
There has been a lot of discussion about the decision not to broadcast the discussions themselves. The reason for this decision is that the Synod is a spiritual event; as such, it needs some discretion, the space and lack of continual external observation which would otherwise inhibit that spiritual process. In other words, the participants need to be able to feel free to speak and to discuss matters openly. There are regular briefings which offer a synopsis of what isbeing discussed by the groups of participants.
The Holy Father, speaking at the first session or ‘general congregation’, told all who were present, and indeed all the people of the Church listening throughout the world –
“The Church is ‘taking a break’, as the Apostles did after Good Friday on Holy Saturday, behind closed doors – but not, like them, out of fear. Still, the Church is ‘taking a break’. It is a break for the whole Church, as we engage in listening. This is the most important message. Thank you for your work.”
Not surprisingly, there have been no changes to what the Church believes and the dogma she proclaims, despite the fears in some quarters. That is not what the Synod is there to do. For now, the task is simply to learn how to listen – to really listen – to one another and to what matters for the people and the Church. Doubtless, this listening will lead on to greater examination of specific issues as time goes on – and there are hints this is taking place already. But for now, it is very much about the listening.
Our Diocese continues to pray hard for the Synod, for the light, wisdom and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be present and to guide the proceedings as He judges best.
And on 19thOctober we will do this in a very real way at the Diocesan Event at the Xavier Centre in Carfin, where people from the Diocese will gather to pray for - and to reflect on - the Synod.