The Synod – a call to pray, listen, and participate.

01-23-2022From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

Last week I told you that I would use this week’s column to explain the Synod which has been convoked by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. A synod is not something new. There have been many synods throughout Church history, some diocesan or regional, others involving the universal Church. The earliest synods were gatherings of Bishops, priests, and lay people to prayerfully discuss how the Church might best live the Gospel at that place and time in history.

Our own Diocese of Metuchen held a synod back in 2008– 2009, just before I came to this parish. Parishes around the diocese were asked to schedule times for prayer. People were asked to attend Listening Sessions in parishes. The results of those listening sessions were forwarded first to deanery then diocesan level sessions where representatives of the priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and lay people of the diocese prayerfully discussed them.

The end result was the formation of some priorities for the diocese. Among these was promotion of Eucharistic Adoration (something that became a beautiful reality in our parish), support for Catholic Schools and Religious Education programs, and working for increased respect for human life. Our Bishop at the time, Bishop Bootkoski, wrote a Pastoral Letter that reflected upon and called the clergy, religious, and laity of the diocese to do their part to make these priorities a reality.

Pope Francis’ hope for the current synod is that it will be an opportunity for Catholics around the world to prayerfully think about the Church, her mission in this world, and the part each of us plays in that mission. To help make this happen, we will be hosting Forty Hours Devotion beginning this Sunday at 6:30pm. The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed in our Church from that time until Benediction on Tue, Jan 25, at 6:30pm. Everyone is invited to come and pray in our Lord’s presence during this time, for at least an hour or so.

Pope Francis, in his homilies and letters about the upcoming Synod, has identified questions upon which asks us to reflect during our prayer. What follows is a list of those questions, preceded by statements that give them some context. Please read over these questions, and, if possible, think them over prayerfully while you are praying before the Blessed Sacrament:

“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, journeys together .”

- How is this journeying together happening today in your parish?

-How is the Holy Spirit inviting your parish to grow in journeying together?

“Listening is the first step. But it requires an open mind and heart, without prejudice.”

- How does God speak to you through the voices in your parish and others in your life?

- What space is there to listen to the voices on the peripheries such as cultural groups, those with disabilities, those who experience poverty, marginalization, or social exclusion?

“All are invited to speak with courage and parrhesia, that is, in freedom, truth, and charity.”

- What enables you or hinders you from speaking up candidly and responsibly in your parish and society?

“Synodality is at the service of the mission of the Church, in which all members are called to participate. A Synodal Church is a participatory and co–responsible Church.”

- How are the baptized members of your parish able to participate in the mission of the Church and proclaim the Gospel?

- What hinders people from being active in your parish?

“In a Synodal Church, the whole community, in the free and rich diversity of its members, is called together to pray, listen, analyze, dialogue, discern, and offer advice on making pastoral decisions which correspond as closely as possible to God’s will.”

- How does your parish use methods of listening and speaking (consultation) to make decisions?

“Journeying together is only possible if it is based on communal listening to the Word of God during the Celebration of the Eucharist (Mass).”

- How does your prayer life and the celebration of Sunday Mass inspire and inform your personal decisions and decisions in the parish community?

“May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace of believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Those who participate in the Listening Sessions will be asked this final question, based on their group participation:

- From your small group sharing, name one insight where you heard the voice of the Holy Spirit today.

The Listening Session will be scheduled soon. I will share the date and time with you through the bulletin, parish website, and announcements before Sunday Mass as soon as possible. Itismyhopeandprayerthatasmanyofyouas possible will spend time praying over these questions, attend the Listening Sessions, and answer Pope Francis’ call to be part of the Synod.

Please say a Hail Mary for me today, and every day, and be assured of my prayers for you.

Have a great week!
Fr. John