The Synod On The Family – What Will Be Happening Each Day Through October 25th?

synod-on-family-logo-no-dateThis past Sunday, Pope Francis opened the Synod of Bishops on the Family by celebrating Mass with more than 360 participants, including 18 married couples from around the world. Running through October 25th, the Synod will focus on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.”

In his remarks on Monday, Pope Francis reminded the participants that the church’s laws cannot become an impediment to his mission of mercy. Repeating a phrase from his homily the day before, “God created law and the Sabbath for man, not vice versa, and leaves the 99 sheep to go in search of the lost one.” He then called for the bishops to show apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer over the next three weeks.

The courage, he said, was needed since the church’s attitudes can, “despite good intentions, distance people from God” and threaten to “make Christian life a museum of memories.”

He said humility was needed so bishops empty themselves of “their own beliefs and prejudices and listen to their brother bishops and fill oneself with God.  . . . A humility that doesn’t point the finger against another to judge them rather it moves one to extend the hand to help them up without feeling superior to them.”

He called for prayer which “is the action of the heart which opens to God, and enables us to listen to the sweet voice of God that speaks in silence.  . . .  Without letting ourselves be guided by the Spirit all our decisions will only be decorations that instead of lifting-up the Gospel only cover and hide it!”

The starting point for the dialogue that will take place over the next three weeks is the official document that is called the Instrumentum laboris. It was written after the closing of the “Extraordinary Synod of Bishop on the Family” that took place in October 2014.

The Synod of Bishops will involve mainly short speeches, reports and discussions – rather than legislative actions. This is because by nature a synod is a consultative body.  Pope Francis reminded the participants that this Synod is “a protected space where the church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit.  . . .  who speaks through the tongue of all persons that allow themselves to be guided by the God who always surprises.”

As the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law explains, “Rather than resolving the issues on its agenda, the synod offers the pope a wealth of information and makes suggestions, from among which the pope is free to choose or not, as he deems best.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, reflected on the dialogue that will take place in this way, “We will be continually affirming the teaching of the church, and we will have to find ways to reach out and be there for people who have a great difficulty living up to that teaching.”

This Synod will conclude in a manner different from previous ones. Usually a synod concludes with a presentation of proposals by bishops to the pope, who would then issue a document a year later. But this time, Pope Francis has indicated that this is not what will happen. It was announced by the Vatican on October 1st that the bishops would vote on the document, written by a Committee of participants that has already been named, that summarizes their discussion at the conclusion of the Synod.

Much of the attention in the press will focus on “hot button” issues – what the church will say about homosexuality and those with a homosexual orientation, and how we will deal with the issues of divorced and remarried Catholics. But the real focus will be on how the Church ministers to all families in such a way that the family is strengthened and becomes a school in evangelization, humanity and mercy.

With the Synod only in its 4th day, there are already reports about what is happening; as well as events, agendas and persons influencing the dialogue. Listen carefully to the reporting and be leery of “sound bites” presented by the media.

I’d encourage you to consider going to a couple of trustworthy “Catholic” sources for your information about this synod between now and October 25th. America Magazine, Catholic News Agency, Vatican Radio, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are all excellent resources for what is happening during these historic days. You might consider “bookmarking” one or two of these sources and checking them daily between now and October 25th.

Finally, be sure to pray each day for Pope Francis and all of the participants who are gathered in the Vatican. Pray that the Spirit of the Lord enlighten their minds so that the Church may respond, faithful to God’s plan, to the challenges facing the family.

Question – What would you say is your number one hope that will come from this Synod of Bishops on the family?

October 7th, 2015 |