As many of you know, Bishop Rhoades spent the month of October in Rome participating in the Synod on Synodality. While that may seem like a pretty esoteric name, “synodality” simply refers to the process of listening and collaboration in the governance of the Church, and Pope Francis called this synod — and asked dioceses to invest considerable preparation into it — so that he could hear the voices of as many people as possible in order to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church at the present moment in time.
This marks somewhat of a “halftime” in the synodal process, since there will be a second meeting in October 2024 to continue this work. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to share with you some observations on the synod that Bishop Rhoades offered in a recent interview (https://catholicreview.org/synod-at-halftime-bishop-rhoades-on-synodality-and-evangelization/). While much has been written in the Catholic press on this meeting, I thought it would be best to hear directly from our own shepherd. Here is some of what he had to say in this interview about this idea of “synodality”:
“To truly have a conversation in the Spirit is a way of discernment and prayer is such an important part of it. We each contribute; every person in the group participates. The way we did it at the synod, we took turns speaking from our own experience in prayer. And then, people are not allowed to respond. You’re just to listen to what others are saying. And then, after three or four people would speak, then we would have four or five minutes of silence in prayer to reflect on what we heard.
After everyone has spoken — this is all in light of whatever the question was that we discussed — then each person shares what resonated with him or her, or what was uncomfortable. Like what did I experience from listening to the others? Then, after everyone shares that, there’s silence in prayer again. And then, a dialogue takes place in which we identify what are the areas of convergence, the areas of discord, you know, obstacles, and then what new questions. At that point, you know, you kind of come to some agreement on what were the convergences, what were the divergences, and then what is the Lord calling us, what’s the Holy Spirit calling us together as next steps.
So, it was a very respectful thing and there are disagreements. But, rather than attack or enter into an uncharitable dialogue, I think just the way it developed was very respectful.”
So even though a meeting called the “Synod on Synodality” might seem completely abstract, I think Bishop Rhoades’ words demonstrate that this is a model that we can apply in our parishes and our homes right away. In a world that is so fractured, and where far too few people actually listen attentively to what others have to say, I hope and pray that our Church may model this type of respectful and fruitful dialogue. We know that the voice of God often speaks to us in a tiny whisper
(see 1 Kgs 19:12-13); it would do us all well to learn how to listen.