Now that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family is over, allow me to take a few moments to reflect on what impact this important meeting will have on our lives as faithful Catholics living in 2014. This Synod, whose purpose was to study present-day Catholic family life in preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in October 2015, has caused stirrings among those who have become sentinels at the gates of religion and culture. In particular, the midterm report issued on October 13, 2014, has given rise to stories which attempt to have us believe that the Catholic Church will be “reinvented” or somehow become “new and improved.”
The possibility of the Church—whose task it is to serve the mission of Jesus Christ with charity, mercy, and justice—considering the situations of contemporary humanity in terms of differing cultural ideas regarding such bed-rock Catholic doctrines as marriage, intimate and interpersonal relationships, and family structures, is NOT a clear indicator that the Church seeks to abandon Her teaching in these areas. Quite the contrary. The mission of the Church is precisely to examine the life and times of men and women and speak Truth with love to everyone.
We must remember that the Catholic Church is an organic institution. As such it has survived and even grown stronger through the winds of time and cultural shifts. Its treasured foundation is the Truth of the Gospel and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit whose complementary interplay of Scripture and Tradition is the mainstay of the Church’s life and leadership.
The Extraordinary Synod opened dialogue on issues that affect the human condition and the daily lives of men and women and the structures that support moral and social structures of our lives. This is the Church’s responsibility in response to human nature, affected by original sin, and redeemed and loved by God.
Clearly the Church refuses to stand idly by and allow current cultural shifts to dictate a major change in society without consideration or without a say in the outcome. To simply say the Church will capitulate—change—or abandon the Truth of the Gospel and the virtues that they embody is to misunderstand the beauty and the strength of the Roman Catholic Church in contemporary society.
Pope Francis, in his concluding address to the assembled Fathers, remarks that “I can happily say that–with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality–we have truly lived the experience of ‘Synod,’ a path of solidarity, a ‘journey together.’
“And it has been ‘a journey’—and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations …”
As we reflect on what has been reported, listen to commentaries of what is to come including the World Meeting of Families 2015, and consider our own sense of who we are as Church, remember to take time in prayer, with true spiritual discernment, considering how we can find answers to so many difficult challenges that families must confront.
Holy Family, model of holiness, pray for us!