Pope Francis launches 2-year synodal path with call to ‘encounter, listen, and discern’

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica opening the worldwide synodal path, Oct. 10, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis formally launched the two-year global consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality on Sunday with a call to “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.”

Preaching at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 10, the pope said that Catholics taking part in the synodal path should strive to “become experts in the art of encounter.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems, as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another,” he said.

“Time to devote to prayer and adoration — this prayer that we neglect so much: to adore, to make room for adoration — listening to what the Spirit wants to say to the Church.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms, vocations, and ministries.”

The live-streamed Mass, attended by around 3,000 people, was the second of two weekend events officially opening the two-year global consultation process.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The first was a “moment of reflection” on Oct. 9 featuring speeches from the pope, Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., the synod’s relator general, and others.

The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 10:17-30, in which Jesus challenges the rich young man to “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor … then come, follow me.”

He said that the Gospels often showed Jesus in the midst of a journey, meeting people and listening to their deepest concerns.

“Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves — all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity — whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity,” he urged.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, together. Let us look at Jesus, who encounters the rich man on the road; he then listens to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life.”

The pope built his homily around three verbs — “encounter, listen, and discern” — that he hoped would mark the synodal path.

He noted that when Jesus encountered the young man, he was fully present to him and did not “keep looking at his watch to get the meeting over.”

“Everything changes once we are capable of genuine encounters with Him and with one another, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are,” he observed.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Pope Francis said that Jesus’ meeting with the rich man showed that listening was an essential feature of true encounters.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

He said: “Let us ask frankly during this synodal process: Are we good at listening? How good is the ‘hearing’ of our heart?”

“Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected, or judged?”

He continued: “Participating in a synod means placing ourselves on the same path as the Word made flesh. It means following in his footsteps, listening to his word along with the words of others. It means discovering with amazement that the Holy Spirit always surprises us, to suggest fresh paths and new ways of speaking.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope acknowledged that learning to listen was “a slow and perhaps tiring exercise” for bishops, priests, religious, and laity.

“Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. Certainties often close us off. Let us listen to one another,” he encouraged Catholics.

The pope said that encounter and listening should lead to discernment.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“We see this in today’s Gospel,” he explained. “Jesus senses that the person before him is a good and religious man, obedient to the commandments, but he wants to lead him beyond the mere observance of precepts.”

“Through dialogue, he helps him to discern. Jesus encourages that man to look within, in the light of the love that the Lord himself had shown by his gaze, and to discern in that light what his heart truly treasures.”

“And in this way to discover that he cannot attain happiness by filling his life with more religious observances, but by emptying himself, selling whatever takes up space in his heart, in order to make room for God.”

The pope described the synod as “a journey of spiritual discernment” guided by God’s word.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

“That word summons us to discernment and it brings light to that process. It guides the synod, preventing it from becoming a Church ‘convention,’ a study group or a political congress, because it is not a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“In these days, Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models; and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time. And the direction in which he wants to lead us.”

Pope Francis ended his homily by wishing participants in the synodal path a good journey together.

He said: “May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Spirit. Let us not miss out on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter, listening, and discernment. In the joyful conviction that, even as we seek the Lord, he always comes with his love to meet us first.”

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  1. Listen? Pope Francis wants to listen?
    He promised to “listen” at the very beginning of his pontificate. Unfortunately, he suddenly and permanently lost his hearing when the first formal set of dubia hit his desk.
    This far into his papacy, any such novelties he may utter ring hollow.
    Besides, it is quite apparent that any effort toward synodality is coincident and synonymous with solely formalizing and legitimizing within the (or a) church:
    1) homosexual clerics, marriage, behavior, et al.
    2) removal of sin and consequential punishment due thereof, regarding any sexual behavior.
    3) women priests in said same church.
    4) elimination of the hierarchy, from the papacy on down, to democratizing what remains of the dust leftover from having pulverized the Rock of Peter into its constituent atoms.
    This is getting old and very stale.
    Lord Jesus, please come soon!

  2. Worse than stale. He began, proximate to this Mass, at the Synod on Synodality, taking refuge in his usual ammunition of unqualified silly cliché words that mean less than nothing in their infinite self-serving fungibility, giving a speech indulging his usual insults of orthodox Catholics for their tendency to accept “old solutions” while calling for a church of listening, he invoked his standard platitudinous imperatives for “a Synodal Church of communion, participation and mission.” Quoting liberal French theologian Fr. Yves Congar, he urged, “We must not make another Church, we must make a different Church,” obviously not grasping the fact that that is the same thing.

    Insulting Catholics who are Catholic, Francis associated his projected caricatured mindset to describe them with the slogan “Things have always been done this way,” calling it “a poison in the life of the Church,” while predictably not making it clear if he means faith, hope, charity, chastity, justice, temperance, and courage are to be tossed into the dustbin of history.

    “The people who do this make the mistake of not taking seriously the zeitgeist [spirit of the age], which risks adopting old solutions for new problems,” the pope said, insisting that the Church should be “an open place, where everyone feels at home and can participate,,” again not bing clear if this would include Catholics who are “too ideological” to not want to abandon their striving for God-given virtues (poison?) as being included among “everyone.”

    He ended this “reflection,” praying that the Holy Spirit would “arouse new languages and put words of life on our lips, preserve us from becoming a museum Church, beautiful but silent, with so much past and little future,” yet again, not being clear if the avoidance of sin and living of virtue is just “so yesterday.”

    Theological coherence he hates. The saints of the past he dismisses. Buffoonish twentieth century theologians he quotes and admires, including process theologians. There are many articulate, intelligent, and oftentimes heroic defenders of the faith who talk endlessly about his confusing ambiguity. This is confusing. There is nothing the least bit confusing about a man who refuses to accept that God given precepts never change, a man who repeated insults everyone who treats God as perfect, and who understand the debt we owe to the saints and received, unchanging clarified truths from the past, from saints who were our betters. There is nothing confusing about a man who trivializes the Ten Commandments.

    Nineteen-sixties hippies smoking dope thought they discovered something revolutionary and utopian by preaching moral nihilism, but they were idiots. They had a liberal adult culture that told them their idiocy was honesty. They did not have the benefit of needing to know better by coming from a tradition that emphasized humility as the core of our relation to God. In contrast, the never matured ego of Francis has turned truth upside down to where God must accompany our predilections no matter how destructive, no matter how sinfully evil. No level of lip service to calling the act of abortion the act of a hit man can suffice his own culpable enabling reality to the holocaust resulting from telling the world no-fault fornication is okay, even if he is too fashionably deluded to consider the obvious connection. His cognitive dissidence is characteristic in direct proportion to his refusal to take stock of his human potential for being a fool.

  3. I just pray this Goat Rodeo 🐐 Pontificate ends soon, and the successor of Francis will simply cancel this train wreck synod dedicated to the topic of train wreck synods.

  4. I suspect that the legacy of this pontificate will be to introduce a new term into the vocabularies of the world:

    “Bergoglio: to bandy about cliches and platitudes as a distraction while subverting the very beliefs and principles it is one’s duty to uphold. E.g., ‘The demise of the school becomes understandable when you realize that the principal had been bergoglioing the donors while siphoning off the endowment.’”

  5. To counteract the confusion or whatever you want to call it coming from headquarters: 1) Pillarcatholic has an interview with Bishop Mark O’Toole, newly assigned bishop of two dioceses in Wales and kindred spirit to Bisops Mark Davies and Philip Egan in England. 2) Gavin Ashendon, formerly of Anglicanunscripted, has started Catholicunscripted along with two other fairly articulate observers of the world we find ourselves in.

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