By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published March 26, 2022
“First and foremost, the Synod is a call to pray, listen, and discern together what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today—all for the sake of the Church’s evangelizing mission.” –Preparatory Document, 32
In 1962, 60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council ushered in an historic amount of change in the church. People over the age of 60 are the only remaining Catholics with personal memories of the pre-Vatican II Church. For many of us seniors, it could well be the most significant spiritual event in our lifetime.
Then last year Pope Francis announced the 2021-2023 Synod. Although the fruits of the synod have yet to be identified, the structure and process—especially the inclusion of the entire Body of Christ in the synod—has the potential to become another milestone in the history of the church.
What is a synod?
Synods go back to the early days of the church when bishops met to discuss new needs and issues. Since Pope Francis was elected, he has called four synods—two dealing with the family, one on the youth and the Amazon synod to identify new paths of evangelization and the vital role the region plays in the health of the planet.
What is different about this synod?
The difference in this synod is that the Pope is calling all of us, the entire body of Christ—laity, clergy and religious to gather in one accord to pray, listen and communicate together.
This synod is about encountering each other as brothers and sisters in Christ to journey together as we collectively pray, listen and discern in community what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church today—all for the sake of renewing and reinforcing the evangelizing mission.
We were introduced to a new term, “synodality” or the practice of praying and listening to the Holy Spirit and each other, in dialogue, friendship and community participation. We will engage in synodality to listen in a respectful and empathetic dialog as we journey together.
In the coming months, the faithful are invited to participate, including senior adults, in the synod. Your input is vital and much needed.
There are six ways that seniors can contribute to the synod process:
- Contribute experience and wisdom in the parish and regional listening sessions
- Share insights learned from the Vatican II experience
- Participate in the synod survey
- Fulfill the role of spiritual patriarch or matriarch in your family
- Listen and relate the messages you receive from the Holy Spirit
- Pray for a successful synod
Let’s take a closer look at each role.
Listening sessions—the objective of the listening phase is to consult with and listen to the body of Christ in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. You can attend an in-person or virtual listening session at your parish, school or community or participate in regional listening sessions. All voices are welcome.
The details of the regional listening sessions are being finalized. Check the status in your area on this link: archatl.com/synod/regional-sessions/.
Share insights from Vatican II—the beauty of growing older is the gift of wisdom. When we were younger, we gained experience from life events, but we could not yet be called wise. Wisdom is a gift that comes with the blending of age and experience. Use your wisdom to share the insights gained while participating and living through Vatican II. Become an active participant in identifying initiatives that the church can address to enhance the evangelizing mission.
Synod survey—the survey is an important tool to reach out to as many people as possible to listen and share what “journeying together” means for all of us. The survey is available online at this link: archatl.com/synod/survey/.
Patriarch and matriarch role—one of the most important initiatives in the church today is the concentration on the role of the family in faith formation. As grandparents live longer and remain active and engaged, they have become highly involved in the care and raising of grandchildren. The roles of patriarchs and matriarchs represent a terrific opportunity to influence the faith formation of the entire family. If you are a grandparent, use your position and influence to involve your entire family in the synod process. Participate as a family in the survey and listening sessions. Solicit the thoughts of your children and grandchildren about the church and her needs.
Listen to the Holy Spirit—as you petition the Holy Spirit, listen to what it may be telling you. In your faith development to date, you hopefully have established a personal prayer relationship with God. He knows your petitions. Ask him to help ensure the success of the synod. Make a commitment that you and your family will participate actively in the synod to ensure that his church will thrive and fulfill the evangelical mission he has envisioned from the beginning of time.
Pray—whether you are able to participate fully or partially, you can offer up a prayer written specifically for use in all past and present synods called “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritu.”
This prayer invites the Holy Spirit to operate within us so that we may be a community and a unified Body of Christ. This prayer is being offered all over the world, in all languages.
In our archdiocese, it has been translated into six of our most used languages. You can download the prayer in your preferred language on this synod link: archatl.com/synod/pray/.
Say the prayer often for a successful synod.
Then…listen quietly…what is the Holy Spirit saying to his church today? What is he saying to you personally?
Have a joyful and fruitful synod!
Bill Clarke, former business executive and teacher, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. To send thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.