Earlier this month, I had the incredible opportunity to journey to Rome with a delegation of young adults with Discerning Deacons. Discerning Deacons is a sponsored ministry of St Thomas More Parish in the Twin Cities, who is faithfully uplifting the living conversation and active discernment in our Church about the question of women and the diaconate. I have dear friends and mentors on staff at Discerning Deacons who asked me this summer if I might want to join them in Rome at the start of the Synodal assembly. Never having been to Italy my first thought was, “Can I get on a plane to Rome?” and soon after felt a deep yes to witness in person this extraordinary moment of our Church.
Our delegation had the joy and privilege of attending the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil and Opening Mass of the Synodal assembly, as well as witnessing to many Spirit-filled moments in between. We had the opportunity to meet several voting delegates and when we did, we asked how we might pray for them during this time. The voting members we encountered were full of excitement and anticipation, trust in the Spirit, and were grateful for our prayers! Some of the prayer intentions that delegates requested were: openness, genuine listening, and for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
At the Opening Mass, our delegation wore t-shirts designed by an artist in our group that say “En la iglesia hay un lugar para todos, todos, todos” and my heart swelled with joy in St Peter’s Square when again our dear Pope Francis spoke the
words “tutti, tutti, tutti”. The Synod on Synodality is something very significant happening in Rome right now – as bishops, cardinals, priests, a deacon, women religious, and lay people including women and men, older adults and young, all gather together to pray and deliberate with their voice and vote. Synodality is, as well, a call for the entirety of our Church in whatever corner of the world we are in. A call to synodality as Pope Francis insists is to first listen. While Discerning Deacons and any one of us have particular hopes for the direction of our Church, being synodal means surrendering to not knowing particular outcomes – what a risk! what an act of faith! – and in the not knowing, putting our trust in the protagonist of the Holy Spirit. Truly trusting in the Holy Spirit as the protagonist I think frees us to listen better to the wisdom and baptismal dignity of each person, without our armor on or agendas in hand. It is what the Synod delegates are doing right now in Rome, sitting around round tables, and it is what we are invited to do here at home. We are a different, better, truer Church because of it.
While in Italy, our delegation traveled by train to Assisi on the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis – very special for me as someone who loves Saint Francis! I sat before the cross where Saint Francis heard God’s invitation to him to “Rebuild my Church,” in San Damiano where Saint Francis spoke his Canticle of the Sun, and in Saint Francis’ cave in the peaceful woods of Carceri. In the stillness of the Assisi countryside, I prayed for Pope Francis, the Synod delegates, and our entire Church… and those prayers deep in my heart, beyond the places of words but within the reach of God as we pray together each Sunday. The next day, on the Feast of Saint Francis, I listened to “Laudato Si” sung in St Peter’s Square, a setting so different
than the woods of Carceri, but enveloped by the same trustworthy Spirit beckoning us to listen, widen our hearts, and expand the space of our tent to todos, tutti, everyone. Praise be to you, my Lord, when we live as Church in this way.
Read more about the Synod on Synodality:
Part 1: A Synod on Synodality
Part 2: Gathering Input
Part 3: North American Issues
Part 4: October Agenda
Part 5: Questions and Expectations
Part 6: Session 1 Final Report