Cardinal asks contemplative religious to pray for the 2023 synod on synodality

By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops / Diocese of Gozo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2021 / 04:22 am (CNA).

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, has asked men and women in monastic and contemplative religious life to pray for the Church as a two-year synodal process begins in October.

“Our Holy Father Pope Francis often repeats: ‘pray for me!’ Today I, as interpreter of the meaning that the Pope wants to give to the synodal path, ask you: ‘pray for the Synod!’” Grech wrote in an Aug. 28 letter.

On Oct. 9-10, the Catholic Church will begin the first phase of a synodal process culminating in the 2023 meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

The theme of the gathering will be “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

Grech wrote that “if the synodal path is not, above all, an ecclesial journey of love to the Father through Christ in the Spirit, it will surely not bear the hoped for fruit.”

“Prayer is the dynamic encounter of love in the Trinitarian God, in the pluriform unity that urges us on to be living witnesses of this love,” he said.

The cardinal said religious brothers and sisters, especially those in contemplative orders, “have the task within the community of carrying out the ministry of prayer, intercession and blessing.”

“In this phase of the synodal process I do not ask you to pray in the place of other brothers and sisters, but to keep everyone’s attention on the spiritual dimension of the journey we are undertaking to know how to discern the action of God in the life of the universal Church and of each local Church,” he said.

“You are for everyone, as were the Levites and the priests in the Psalm [134], ‘ministers of prayer’ who, through praise and intercession, remind everyone that without communion with God there can be no communion among ourselves.”

The synod on synodality will open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis will “inaugurate the synodal path” over the weekend of Oct. 9-10 with an opening session and a Mass. All dioceses are invited also to offer an opening Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17.

During the diocesan phase, each bishop is asked to undertake a consultation process with the local Church from Oct. 17, 2021, to April 2022.

The Vatican will then release an instrumentum laboris (working document) in September 2022 for a period of “pre-synodal discernment in continental assemblies,” which will influence a second draft of the working document to be published before June 2023.

In his letter, Cardinal Grech said he was moved to write to monastic and contemplative religious before the opening of the synodal process because prayer “belongs to the deepest chords of your vocation.”

Besides “listening, conversion, communion,” he said, “there is a ministry of praise and prayer of which you are the living sign in the Church.”

Grech said there will surely be other ways in which religious men and women in monasteries will contribute to the synodal journey, “however, your vocation helps us,” he continued, “even if only by your presence, to be a Church which listens to the Word, capable of permitting the Spirit to convert her heart, persevering in ‘the communal life, […] and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42).”

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  1. Contemplative prayer, hopefully part of a grounded model of synodality…
    Somewhere in his writings emeritus Pope Benedict noticed that the fault line between the Catholic Church and Protestantism was also the dividing line between monastic institutions and their absence. But, elsewhere he also noticed the displacement of the Magisterium north of that line—the role of Tradition (larger than monastic and contemplative orders) together with Scripture. He wrote:

    “The distinction between theology and statements of church doctrine cannot be so clearly drawn in the sphere of the Lutheran Reformation [e.g., read the composite German synodal way] as it can in Catholic theology. In fact, the Reformation rests, to a large extent, on the fact that that distinction has been eliminated and that, in consequence, statements of church doctrine can have no higher or different rank in principle than the findings of scientific theology” (Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” 1982/1987).

    As for the Gospel and the four developmental principles superimposed into Evengelii gaudium (1993), consider the (one, hole, catholic and apostolic) Church praying on the possible risks of “time is greater than space” lapsing into HISTORICISM; of “unity prevails over conflict” lapsing into CLERICALISM; of “realities are more important than ideas [concepts?]” lapsing into NOMINALISM; and of “the whole is greater than the part” lapsing into GLOBALISM.

    So, by all means, a good move to encourage the religious orders to pray for the Church—what the Church IS—as compared to what it simply DOES in even successful councils or synods, with or without “continental” breakfast.

  2. “The preparatory document highlights how Vatican II, with Ressourcement, wanted to recover that model of the Church without renouncing the great advances of the Church in the second millennium. Once we have rediscovered the ‘pneumatological’ dimension of the Church, we can only adopt the dynamism of prophecy-discernment” (Cardinal Mario Grech CNA Staff Vatican 7.22.21 in NCR). Pneumatological theology is the study of the Holy Spirit. Since 2013 we know well how that’s been applied. “The Holy Father appointed Bishop Mario Grech of Malta to succeed Cardinal Baldisseri. Bishop Grech became known for having applied in his diocese the most controversial positions of the exhortation Amoris lætitia” (FSSPX News). Although the FSSPX are not enthusiastic friends of His Holiness there are grounds for their deprecatory views of Grech as the Pontiff’s appointment to the Council as its headmaster. We are reminded that the Maltese hierarchy had issued carte blanche policy on communion according to conscience to divorced and remarried. George Weigel, more staid regarding Church affairs in his commentary in First Things is as previously skeptical of the Synod calling Grech’s format convoluted, with appeal only to those seeking mutual affirmation. Cardinal Grech’s “prophecy, discernment and call to conversion” are keywords that set the tone for the 2023 Synod on synodality. Considering all in expanded context inclusive of Amazonia and German synodality can we realistically expect Resourcement a reversal? This writer’s response to this Synod is Christ yesterday, today and tomorrow.

  3. An AFTERTHOUGHT…We read: “The theme for the upcoming assembly is ‘for a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.’”

    Cardinal Grech invites the contemplative religious orders to pitch in along the way. But nothing said, really, about the contemplative INTERIOR LIFE, itself, of such religious orders, or therefore about the depth of personal CONVERSION.

    So, is the synod on synodality more of a Lutheran project-church? Instead of, say, sacramental EUCHARISTIC COHERENCE (as the taproot of “communion”)? And, which should be the source of any synod of the Eucharistic Church—-if there still is a center.

    About the marginalized contemplative and interior life…perhaps this goes without saying? But why, exactly, does it remain unsaid? In addition to a process timeline, a few lines of poetry might help. How about the Anglo-Catholic (ecumenism!) T. S. Eliot and “the Hollow Men?”

    “We are the hollow men [!] We are the stuffed men. Leaning together (meetings?). Headpiece filled with straw [John Courtney Murray’s “learned ignorance”?] Alas! Our dried voices, when we whisper together [participation?] are quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass. Or rats’ feet over broken glass [mission?]. In our dry cellar. Shape without form, shade without colour. Paralysed force, gesture without motion…”

    Just as in the secular world, “process” is not enough.

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