The final “small” document from the extraordinary synod is out, in English. Another, longer form, is due out later. That presumably will contain “proper” language on this and that.
I found the small version heartening and appropriate. Leading off with “We, Synod Fathers” is accurate. But there is more to a family than the Father. And more to Church than bishops.
As I wasn’t in attendance, and I’m not sure just what the impact of lay testimony was, I will offer a cautious criticism that more voices need to speak and be heard. Families consist mainly of husbands and wives. Our sacrament is at the center of the family.
Voices of adult children (the priests and bishops) are important and must be heard. But their experience is limited to being observers, and in a way, outsiders to the graced inner life of spouses.
We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.
The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.
These things strike me in these first three paragraphs:
- I appreciate gratitude. God knows I try to cultivate it in myself. I also feel grateful that the world’s bishops are spending time and effort, and if one believes the blogosphere, their reputations to invest time in assisting in this most blessed sacrament and the families that spring from it.
- It is true that every cleric was once a child in a family, and later entered into an adult relationship with parents. It is not quite the same as the sacrifice we husbands and wives embrace. I would not presume to say what it is like to preside over the Eucharistic assembly during the anaphora–on a daily basis. Most priests and all Catholic bishops today are spectators to a degree, participants with a perspective common to close friends, adult children, and counsellors. Often experienced? Yes. Insights to offer with perspective? Certainly. I would trust a man who has been a parish pastor much more than academics, chancery officials, seminary staff, or others who have insulated themselves from preparing women and men for marriage, witnessing the commitment, and being there when things begin to go wrong.
- The bishops acknowledge the importance of the pre-synod efforts as well as the lay speakers. We have helped them in this effort. I feel grateful for that.