In a previous post, we talked about the worldwide process Pope Francis has inaugurated to dream about the future of the church. I think all catechumenate teams should take this seriously. The church that we are initiating the seekers into today will not be what the church looks like in the future. The pope and the bishops in charge of the process have told us we have to remain “open to the surprises that the Spirit will certainly prepare for us” (Synod Preparatory Document) and open to conversion and change.
We are called to abandon attitudes of complacency and comfort that lead us to make decisions purely on the basis of how things have been done in the past. (Synod Official Handbook)
In this post, I want to say a bit about why this process is so important. Before we dive in, however, a quick reminder about the word “synod” and other churchy terms. Don’t let unfamiliar terms hold you back. “Synod” comes from two Greek terms: sun- ”together” + hodos ”way.”
In an address to the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis said that “synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission.” He explained that the word “synod,” contains everything we need to understand: “walking together.”
In saying that, the pope is recalling an ancient tradition. In the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom said “church and synod are synonymous” (Commentary on Psalm 149.)
So why is Pope Francis making a big deal out this “walking together” or “dreaming together” process right now?
I think it is for one reason: evangelization. Every pope since John XXIII has taught extensively about the need to evangelize. That sixty-plus years of teaching has come to a crescendo with Pope Francis. Pope Francis realizes that without the passionate participation of the baptized priesthood the faithful, the church’s evangelization efforts will falter.
By calling on the entire church to dream about the future, the pope is reminding us that we are co-responsible for the mission:
Synodality is at the service of the Church’s mission, in which all her members are called to participate. Since we are all missionary disciples, how is each Baptized person called to be a protagonist in the mission? How does the community support its members committed to service in society (social and political commitment, in scientific research and teaching, in the promotion of social justice, in the protection of human rights, and in caring for the Common home, etc.)? How do you help them to live out these commitments in a logic of mission? How is discernment about mission-related choices made, and who participates in it? (Synod Preparatory Document)
Missionary disciples on the journey of faith
That word “co-responsible” is important. We aren’t supposed to wait around for permission to evangelize. We aren’t supposed to wait for someone above to give us a workshop or a plan. Everyone who has encountered Jesus (even the seekers) is responsible for sharing the good news.
Early in his papacy, Pope Francis said:
The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in him “because of the woman’s testimony” (Jn 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21).
So what are we waiting for? (Joy of the Gospel, 120; emphasis added)
The reason this process is important is that it reminds us that we need to stop waiting around. The dreaming together process will encourage us and embolden us to imagine what a missionary church looks like. Just by imagining what the church of the future will be like, we create a church filled with missionary disciples who go out to proclaim the good news. That will surely impact the way we accompany seekers on their journey of faith.
In a future post, will look more closely at what the dreaming together process looks like, both for the universal church and for our parish catechumenate communities.
How are you working in and with your parish to be co-responsible for the mission of the church? How do you imagine being missionary disciples journeying together in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.