Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
Regardless of the liturgical value of the song, a very popular tune years ago declared boldly, “The Spirit is a-movin’, all over, all over this land!” The verses of this song went on to declare some of the various ways in which we can see evidence of that Spirit. Though the Pentecost event took place over two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, this is no singular past even. We should not despair of the Spirit’s action and presence in the Church today. The promises of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit are related in John 16:4b-15. Having provided an action-lesson by washing the disciples’ feet after the last supper, Jesus goes on to tell them of the coming of the Spirit.
One may ask, so what are some of the signs of the Spirit’s presence with us in these times? This is always the object of discernment, looking at the signs of the times and seeing what can usually only be seen with the eyes of faith. One contemporary sign of the Spirit’s presence and action among us, assuring us that we have not been left orphaned, is the Synodality process that will lead the whole Church into the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
Despite some confusion around the details, the process of Synodality has been identified as a work of the Spirit. In each of the gathering circles held in our parishes and dioceses, there are voices of encouragement and hope that the voices of the little people, the common folk, are being heard and discerned as the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Synodality as an exercise of discerning the voice of the Spirit has always been found in the Church. Beginning with the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29), the apostles and their successors (the bishops) have long gathered to pray over and resolve pressing issues in their day. One of the unique elements of the present exercise of synodality is the desire to hear the experiences and reflections of those on the periphery, or the edges, of the Church’s life and influence. Until now, synods have been expressions of episcopal discernment and leadership. Pope Francis is calling on us to welcome and hear the voices of those whose wisdom we seldom if ever hear.
We must keep in mind that Synodality is an ecclesial exercise. This is not a civic parliament where the greatest number of votes wins the day, or where factions on an issue or policy negotiate to find common ground. This is an exercise of prayerful listening to experiences and wisdom, by which we discern the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit has not been absent from our midst since it came upon the earliest disciples. The Holy Spirit brought them spiritual gifts, that provided them the courage and universal charity that emboldened them to speak publicly about the person and mission of Jesus.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful. And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Standing Committee for Relations with Catholic Associations and Movements
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops