Message from Cardinal Dolan: Opening the Synod Process
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass for the opening of the Synod Process
October 17, 2021
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
A blessed Sunday!
Can we consider a bit today the role of authority and leadership in the Church? Jesus teaches us about all that in our Gospel passage at Mass this morning.
Yes, the Church is of divine origin, but she is composed of flawed human membership; yes, Jesus gave us a rather fluid blueprint about the structure of His Church – his apostles, the sacraments, a basic creed and moral expectations, bishop, priest, deacon, women and men with duties in marriage, family, communities of faith, using gifts – which the bible calls charisms – of teaching, worship, charity, administration, healing, and service; the mandate to teach the nations about Him.
Throughout her colorful history of two millennia, the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church has expanded and developed its style of organization and authority.
We’ve had popes at the head of conquering armies and popes all by themselves in jail;
Bishops called “princes,” and bishops beheaded by princes;
We’ve had women and men living as solitary hermits, or as members of thriving, vibrant, communities;
The Church hast taught sternly with threats of punishments in this life and the next, or softly and gently under the shade of a tree outside the parish church;
She has managed property, buildings, and money to compete with a Wall Street firm, or existed solely on faith, prayer, bread, wine, the Bible, and the goodness of her people;
The Church has members trying to raise families, run businesses, make a living, while ever in allegiance to the teachings of our Lord…
This only touches on the array, the sample of how the Church we cherish has tried to lead, teach with authority, govern and serve since Jesus commissioned us to do so.
And now the successor of Saint Peter as bishop of Rome and pastor of the Church Universal, Pope Francis, has asked us all to commence an examination of conscience on how we as a Church are living up to the model of the Church given us by Jesus. Pope Francis has asked us to begin a process of preparation and prayer for a Synod of Bishops in Rome in two years, on the topic he calls all this: synodality.
Thus do I welcome this morning leaders from the archdiocese who generously participate in the consultative organs of these vast areas of the Lord’s vineyard – members of our boards, committees, religious orders, schools, charities, health care, witness in the public square, business and governance.
And just what is this synodality of which Pope Francis so often speaks? I don’t know if I completely understand it; and the Holy Father is honest in admitting that neither does he have the full comprehension, which is precisely why he has summoned us to this endeavor. He wants us to join him in praying, listening, discerning, examining ourselves personally, and the Church communally, to see if we’re truly on the path Jesus has set for His beloved bride, His mystical body, the Church.
He has reminded us of certain clear essentials intended by Jesus, constant, although, at times, we admit clouded and dimmed, in the Church’s amazing 2,000 year drama. Here are some those non-negotiables.
- The energy and direction driving the Church comes from the Holy Spirit, not ourselves;
- While in the world, we are not of the world, and thus our guiding principles come from the Gospel, revelation, and the patrimony of the Church’s settled teaching;
- That the principles of the innate dignity of every human person and the inherent sacredness of all human life are the towering moral lighthouses on our path;
- That our journey through this life back to our true and eternal home of heaven is most effectively accomplished precisely as a journey as we walk with and accompany each other, with Jesus as our guide, His mother and the saints, and we sinners at each other’s side;
- That on this journey we pay special attention to those at the side of the road, especially those who are sick, weak, poor, or unable to keep up with us;
- That our wealth only comes from faith, trust, prayer, the sacraments, and His grace;
- That mercy, love, invitation, humility, joy, selfless, generous service, and good example are our only tools, never harshness, condemnation, or pride.
That seems to be synodality in a nutshell. We are loyal Catholics. The Holy Father has asked us to help him keep the Church always under the direction Jesus, our good shepherd, intends.
Thank you for accepting his invitation to enter this walk of synodality. Stay tuned for other invitations as the process continues. Stay tuned as our own team led by Elizabeth Guevara and Monsignor LaMorte, keep us posted.
And stay tuned to those words from the gospel this morning:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (MK 10: 42-45)