Walking Together | Communion | Participation | Mission
Through this Synod, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on how the Church journeys together as the People of God. Following the renewal of the Church proposed by the Second Vatican Council, this common journey together is both a right and a responsibility. By reflecting together on our journey together, the diverse members of the Church learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives. Guided by the Holy Spirit, enlightened by God’s Word and united in prayer, we are invited to discern how to seek God’s will and God calls us onward – towards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness so that we might be a Church with a mission-centered heart. The International Theological Commission (ITC) describes synodality this way:
‘Synod’ is an ancient and venerable word in the Tradition of the Church, whose meaning draws on the deepest themes of Revelation […] It indicates the path along which the People of God walk together. Equally, it refers to the Lord Jesus, who presents Himself as ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 14,6), and to the fact that Christians, His followers, were originally called ‘followers of the Way’ (cf. Acts 9,2; 19,9.23; 22,4; 24,14.22).
First and foremost, synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.
In this sense, synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us. This “walking together” is the most effective way of putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God (PD, 1).
The entire People of God shares a common dignity and vocation through Baptism. All of us are called by virtue of our Baptism to be active participants in the life of the Church. In parishes, small Christian communities, lay movements, religious communities, and other forms of communion, women and men, young people and the elderly, we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who comes to guide our human efforts, breathing life and vitality into the Church and leading us into deeper communion for our mission in the world. As the Church embarks on this synodal journey, we must strive to ground ourselves in experiences of authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.
This synodal journey commenced in the Vatican with the Official Opening by the Holy Father in the Vatican on 9-10 October 2021. This was followed by an Official Opening in each local church on Sunday 17 October 2021. For the Auckland Diocese a liturgy led by Bishop Patrick was celebrated
October 2021 - July 2022
The objective of this phase is ] is carried out through listening to all of the baptised and others interested in journeying with us. This consultation will conclude with a pre-synodal meeting on which will be the culmination of diocesan discernment. In the Southern Hemisphere, this process will take place between October 2021 and July 2022. In the Auckland diocese October will be a time of preparation and formation of facilitators. Then 'local' Churches, parishes, faith communities, fraternal groups will promote and encourage participation. A variety of ways will be offered so that a diversity of voices are listened to. Responses to the diocese will be received up until 14 April 2022. The pre-synodal gathering that closes the diocesan phase will be held on Saturday 14 May 2022. 10am -12noon.
NATIONAL / CONTINENTAL PHASE
June 2022 - August 2022
At the conclusion of the diocesan phase, we as the local church of Auckland will submit our
contributions to to the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference. A period of discernment will begin for our bishops gathered to listen to what the Spirit has inspired in the churches entrusted to them. Their synthesis will then be sent to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops along with the contributions of each of the local churches before August 2022.
September 2022 - October 2023
The documents gathered from across the world will then become part of the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’, or ‘working document’ for the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023.
... the purpose of the Synod is not to produce documents, but “to plant
dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire
trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of
hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that
will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands ...
“...we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit,
who comes to guide our human efforts, breathing life and vitality into the Church and leading us into
deeper communion for our mission in the world.”
Whether the response to this invitation to listen to the Spirit is from an individual or a group, it should be the product of prayerful discernment. Discernment is a prayerful process of responding. Pope Francis often talks about discernment:
“Discernment is one of the things that worked inside St. Ignatius. For him it is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him more closely… Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.”
Pope Francis, August 2013
Father James Martin SJ explains the essence of discernment:
“At heart, the process begins with the belief that God wants a person, or a group, to make good, healthy and life-giving decisions; and through the ‘discernment of spirits,’ that is, sorting out what is coming from God and what is not, one gains clarity about the best path. God therefore both wants and enables individuals and groups to arrive at good decisions.”
Our relationship with God is at the heart of discernment. God respects our freedom by acting very gently with us. This means that we need to continually fine-tune our listening to God. Listening to God amid the other interior and exterior voices in our lives is discernment.
How do we know that we are listening to God and following the movement of the Spirit within ourselves or in a group? Ask, “Am I at peace with this? Am I at ease now, especially if what I had previously thought was the best course of action is not what I now think? Or am I uneasy or anxious?”
A good discernment process brings clarity and inner peace. If there is unease or anxiety, personal issues are getting in the way.