As many are aware, the Synod on the Family has begun. Scheduled to run three weeks, from its opening on October 4 with a special Mass presided over by Pope Francis through to October 25, the Synod is reflecting on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family.” The participants include cardinals, bishops and other representatives from around the world.
There has already been much written about the Synod – and there will be much more (much, much more). I’ve read that the Synod is the work of the devil and will lead to a schism in the Catholic Church, and also that it will be a blessing. I’ve read the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion is off the table and that the Synod will allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. Some people are happy and others dismayed by the lineup of participants. And so on and so forth – you get the idea.
I direct this largely to my Catholic friends. Here are a couple of suggestions for getting through this without giving oneself an ulcer, or at least some very bad headaches.
First take a deep breath (or a few) and to try to avoid immediate reaction to every individual soundbite that comes out over the coming weeks.
Second, take the various commentaries you read with a grain of salt. People have a tendency to characterize things in ways that are not always totally accurate. (How’s that for an understatement?) Read whatever documents or transcripts of the direct statements of the participants that become available. (For example, you can read the full text of Pope Francis’ opening remarks here.)
Third, be attentive to whether the tone of your own conversation and comments on the process promote love or disunity. To be clear, I am not saying there are not difficult issues to discuss, issues on which people of good will may have different views. And we should be talking about them (even if we are not part of the Synod process). But how we dialogue with others makes an enormous difference. Do my words promote divisiveness or do they promote communion? Do they come out of a place of anger or a place of love?
Finally, pray. Pray with confidence that the Holy Spirit is guiding this process.
Note: This evening I begin preaching an Ignatian retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh. Please keep me and the retreatants in your prayers.