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How Can We Become a Church of the People of God? The Synod on Synodality

 James Carroll writes "The future will come at us invisibly, frame by frame" (The Truth At the Heart of the Lie, 316). Pope Francis's call for the multiyear process The Synod on Synodality asks us to listen, study, integrate an enlivened and dialogical faith. How can we become a Church of the Pilgrim People of God? This process must accommodate those unheard, the vulnerable, the young, alienated. As opposed to the Newark Archdiocese, whose site offers resources to ensure full access of people with disabilities, the Boston Archdiocesan opened a survey asking for one sentence answer. It remains a live survey --and while imagining how the Archdiocese may listen better you may do your best to mimic Proust in Swann's Way to extend your sentences.

eg. listening to the people of parishes and institutions within the Archdiocese
Might the good people, hearing the Good News, joining the Walk for Hunger, or this upcoming Winter Walk, rallying for the unhoused or non-union warehouse worker, having descended to Washington DC by buses with the Poor People's Campaign, Dec 13, and again this June 18 representing the 140 million people living under the poverty line, truly become a Church in the Streets?
"As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first.  Those “streets” are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively."--Pope Francis, 48th World Communications Day Message

eg. listening to the people of the Archdiocese
People, who live in the parishes serving in civic society, municipal roles, organizing to activate Tennant Associations for the emergency housed, envisioning safe streets, community policing, ways of addressing addiction, reaching out to their parish staff about the promotion of human rights and not hearing back, attending Mass and not seeing in the bulletin, or hearing remotely from any ministerial communication, any sign of recognition of our community-led solution-oriented problem solving, and while grasping social friendship (Fratelli Tutti no. 61) defending from eviction our Commonwealth's poor and Catholic Charities welcomes the complex hospitality needs of Afghan families, still the Archdiocese comprehends little of the assembly, remains stranger as across the street lamentation continues for the lost lives and lost faith, innocence betrayed by abusing spiritual leaders, and even as the international community joining Pope Francis' elevation of Monsignor Romero, recognition of Rutilio Grande and soon we hope Dorothy Day, at home in the word's greatest purveyor of violence, the greatest consumer of fossil fuels, the military absorbing over fifty percent of taxed income, our parish leaders persist ignoring the local manufacturers of death like Raytheon, or Bath Iron Works, whose business practice are clearly outlawed by the International Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but to its entry into force last year stand seemingly uninterested at all, deaf to the stated teaching of Fratelli Tutti that no war is just, that nuclear weapons must be disarmed and to this end we must all dialogue in unity with people of faith; alas, no homily, no fulfillment of the word, only hosting the body parts of Saint Padre Pio after giving the comparison to oppressed religious communities, an outrage Mansoor Adayfi expressed in his memoir of imprisonment in Guantánamo Do Not Forget Us Here, but also by Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury, winner of the Sacco and Vanzetti Award, serving a 17.5 year sentence as reported in the Globe 2018, and while the real criminals revealed in Dr. Maha Hilal's book "Innocent Until Proven Muslim," it's as if the Church lay paralyzed, the Panopticon's gaze interiorized, a handmaid serving the State by feigned absence from political participation, except for the few holding a banner up of the seamless garment of life, conception to natural death (abolish the death penalty), setting no example of solidarity, one can only presume, second to supporting vocations such as Sr. Megan Rice member of Transform Now Plowshares, or Sr. Antonia Ebo who walked at Selma and again at Ferguson, covenanted to the consecrated life, hers the job of listening to the people what could as a corporate pastoral body, the Church, fulfilling the living Word, a while Pope Benedict XVI in 2003 condemned the Iraq war as one that was "illegal, immoral and unjust" noting that 'preventative war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church*--how have our shepherds' (snowblind?) not yet recognizing signs of the times, but need repent publicly for its complicity in justifying War these past 20 years.

As to the hearing of voices of the Universal Church, before I give one more sentence, I want to aboutface to call to mind ecclesial violence in the historic erasure of women, citing below from an issue of Concilium titled "Women: Invisible in Church and Theology." 
Mary Boys, in 1985 a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, from her context as an Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, concluded her article: "Will the Church be open to the learning of these women? Will the words of John XXIII in his opening speech at Vatican II be fulfilled:  'In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations...'?--(from "Women as Leaven: Theological Education in the United States and Canada"). 

Around the world Catholic voices rally to Ban Nuclear Weapons, and if not in the danger of nuclear war in the Ukraine crisis, a point will come as the Church, not simply the Vatican, a signatory of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but the mystical body, will know, that hour, the bridegroom Christ will have arrived and the virgins who had no oil in their lamps (Mt. 25:1-13), who had no friend in the poor, the oppressed, shall be thrown out into the fire. 

But it was Jesus who said it best, in what is more to God than judgment, empowering confidence. To the paralytic at the pool of Siloam, in reach of its healing waters, but for years immobile, Jesus said: "Get up, pick up your mat, and walk" (Jn. 5:8). Perhaps I'm the wise fool here and must open my Bible again to the passages of Journey, the Road from Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35), or study the intention for this Synod on Synodality 
I'm trying to read the documents myself, but here are a couple citations I find hopeful:

The Vademecum
2.3 Attitudes for participating
Listening to each and every one: By learning from one another, we can better reflect the wonderful multi-faceted reality that Christ’s Church is meant to be.

2.4. Avoiding Pitfalls #5 A Synodal Process is a time to dialogue with people from the worlds of economics and science, politics and culture, arts and sport, the media and social initiatives. It will be a time to reflect on ecology and peace, life issues and migration...

3.1 Diocesan Phase
In this listening phase we encourage people to gather, respond to stimulus questions/images/scenarios together, listen to each other, and provide individual and group feedback, ideas, reactions, and suggestions. However, if circumstances (such as pandemic restrictions or physical distance) make face-to-face interaction difficult, then it is possible to use moderated online discussion groups, self-guided online activities, chat groups, phone calls, and various forms of social communication, as well as paper-based and online questionnaires. Prayer materials, biblical reflections, and sacred music, as well as works of art, poetry, and so on, can also be used to stimulate reflection and dialogue.

Let me drill down on the dialogue, in regard to the formation of priests capable of ecumenism. Describing his early formation in the wake of the Second Vatican Council 1962-1965, James Carroll writes:
"One aspect of the experience stood out. The seminary curriculum immediately reflected, in a quite particular way, the council's promised end of antagonism toward, as they were still called, non-Catholics. The Paulist order would entirely recast its self-understanding around the so-called ecumenical movement, the drive to overcome the divisions among denominations and churches that had marred Christianity since the Reformation.
"As it happened, a Rome-based Paulist priest, Father Thomas Stransky, was a member of the council's just-created Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, whose agenda was nothing less than reuniting the Christian denominations--Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. This was the council's most fervent purpose, a movement from exclusivism to pluralism--the Catholic repudiation, at last, of No Salvation Outside the Church. The main pillar of doom was being dismantled.
"..For us seminarians, ...since our seminary promptly embarked on an unprecedented "dialogue" with the Lutheran seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Soon enough, we young Catholics were meeting regularly with our Lutheran counterparts, studying Scripture together and also sharing the starling discovery of the faith's American relevance in those heady days of the minister-led civil rights movement....They had Martin Luther, yes, but we all had Martin Luther King, Jr." (212-213).
"The Church I foresee will be governed by laypeople, although the verb "govern" may apply less than "serve." There will be leaders who gather communities in worship....They will include women and married men. They will be ontologically equal to everyone else. They will not owe fealty to a feudal superior. ...The Church will be fully alive at the local level, even if the faith is practiced more in those living rooms than in basilicas. And theChurch will still have a worldwide reach, with some kind of organizing center, perhaps even in Rome for old times' sake. But that center will be protected from Catholic triumphalism by being openly engaged with other Christian denominations. The ecumenical movement--the Pope John XXIII project of Christian reunion--will be fulfilled. As all of this implies, clericalism will be long dead." (316-17)"
- James Carroll's in The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost its Soul: A Memoir of Faith. New York: Random House, 2021. 

Along with prayer and study, may our actions for peace reflect the will of God and may we harbor the Spirit of God, endeavoring to practice mindfully in response to our call to communio.

"Communio an ancient word not to be confused with the sacrament of communion" Donna Doucette, Director of Voices for the Faithful, reminded her audience of Paulist Center of Boston via zoom last Monday. More encompassing, this word imbues the synod process with the proper attitude and disposition of the holy, journeying together in the one-ness of Church. 

To end, I'll look back once more at the prophetic issue of Concilium. Marga Bührig was serving in 1983 as a co-President of the World Council of Churches with which she had by then been involved with the WCC for thirty years. She concluded her contribution in this way:
"I personally am deeply convinced that the Church is lacking something essential if the gifts, experiences and energies of women are not fully brought into the Church, ... 'If the Gospel is that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself", can that reconciliation be mediated with the wholeness of the church by a priesthood which is itself less than fully human? After centuries of travail, the human race faces new possibilities of fulfillment--or of annihilation. Within that awe-ful possibility, woman kind is discovering fresh openings in service to humanity. Within that open-ness, Christian priesthood is called to be fully human if God is to be known as fully God.'"

Marga Bührig, "The Role of Women in the Ecumenical Dialogue" p98 in Women--Invisible in Theology and Church eds. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Mary Collins. Concilium. Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1985, citing Oliver S. Tomkins A Fully Human Priesthood (Movement for the Ordination of Women, July 1984. London).

*Catholic Peace Fellowship. "The Moral Compass of Benedict XVI: Where Will His Commitment to Peace Lead Us?" Sign of Peace 5, no. 1 (Spring 2006): <>(a. cf. Anna Brown "The Language of the Incandescent Heart: Daniel Berrigan's And Etty Hillesum's Responses to a Culture of Death" in Faith, Resistance, and the Future: Daniel Berrigan's Challenge to Catholic Social Thought. Eds. James L. Marsh and Anna J. Brown. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. p301, no. 12.


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