Monday, October 6, 2014

The Extraordinary Synod begins

The long awaited and much anticipated Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, called by Pope Francis, began yesterday, 5 October. While there is no indication that this convergence is in any way intentional, I find it most fitting that the Synod began on the liturgical memorial of St Faustina Kowolska, Apostle of Divine Mercy. Of course, yesterday being Sunday, the Church observed the Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time. This is more than alright, it is right and just because without Christ's Resurrection there would be no saints whatsoever!

Pope Francis venerating an icon of the Holy Family during the Mass to open the Extraordinary Synod

As is his wont on these occasions, Pope Francis gave a relatively short homily at the Mass he celebrated to open the Synod. Here is what he said regarding the Synod in light of yesterday's Gospel reading: "We too, in the synod of bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realise his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity."

In his opening address to the Synod, the Pontiff said, "This is a basic general condition: speak clearly. Do not say: I cannot say this, if I do they will think badly of me. Speak freely of everything you believe. Following the last consistory in February of this year in which we spoke about the family, a cardinal wrote the following: 'What a pity! Some cardinals did not dare to say some things in respect for the Pope, thinking that maybe he thought differently.' This is not alright.” Indeed, it is important to have a free-ranging discussion so that discernment on matters of fundamental importance not only for the Church and for the world, but for the salvation of souls, which ought to be the point and purpose of all the Church's initiatives and activities, can take place.

Do not be lured into thinking that this is the first time the Roman Pontiff has called for open and free expression at a Synod. In the first Synod of his pontificate, which took place in 2005 and was on the Eucharist, at which the matter of married priests was bravely broached and tepidly discussed, as was a proposal to reform formal annulment proceedings, Pope Benedict XVI, after the Synod's conclusion, kindly expressed some disappointment that the discussion seemed to him rather limited and shallow.

As Catholics we all have a duty to pray for the Extraordinary Synod. Duty aside, it should be our joy and privilege to do so. In addition to being a month during which the Church observes the feasts and memorials of so many dearly beloved members of the communio sanctorum (St Thérèse, St Francis of Assisi, St Faustina, St Teresa of Ávila, who, with the Little Flower, is a Doctor of the Church, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Luke the Evangelist, St Margaret Mary Alocoque, St Paul of the Cross, Apostles Sts Simon and Jude, etc) October is the month of the the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is tomorrow, 7 October. I urge everyone to pray the Rosary each day during the Extraordinary Synod with an intention for the Synod.

What is a Synod? Funny you should ask. Below is a video from the Holy See's Synodal webpage made to answer just that question:

Unsurprisingly, the topic of Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus address was the family. Specifically, he spoke of the need for families to read the Bible together. Holding up an edition of the Holy Bible made available for pilgrims in St Peter's yesterday by the Pauline Brothers, the Bishop of Rome said, "Today, as the Synod for the Family opens, with the help of the Pauline brothers there is a Bible for every family! Not to just put it on a shelf, but to keep it on hand, dip into it often, both individually and together, husband and wife, parents and children, perhaps in the evening, especially on Sundays. In this way the family will grow and walk in the light and the strength of God’s Word!" In his address he also stated, "For the family to be able to proceed well, with trust and with hope, it must be nurtured by the Word of God."

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