Our first day in Rome was spent, aptly so, walking together. We wandered joyfully exhausted, from historic church to landmark to bustling neighborhood, encountering a truly dual city that combines the sacred history and the living heart of a vibrant community. 

I expected to be awed by majestic churches and the breadth of St. Peter’s Square. But I was taken aback by the graffiti that annotated the city’s walls and archways. Graffiti is by its nature a dialogue, a conversation between society and citizens, and then between the audience’s graphitic commentary and that commentary’s audience and on and on. Graffiti reminds us that we need to listen to our community when it speaks in ways that challenges our traditions. The act of scrawling graffiti also emulates the gait that our synodal church must take on—the healthy restlessness of incompleteness. 

Image credit: Seamus Dougherty

Graffiti isn’t a sign of social failure, but a sign of plurality, of the beautiful diversity of God’s creation. Likewise, dialogue that challenges us is not a sign of the end times or of social degradation, but of potential growth towards a more united horizon of communion with the dear neighbor. This Synod is an opportunity for our Church to commit to walking the synodal talk; to be humble, to recognize its errors and ask for forgiveness, and listen to the literal writing on the wall. A synodal church is a church that listens, and a church that welcomes those who walk alone, venturing to the periphery to seek out all of our siblings in Christ.

Seamus Dougherty is double-majoring in English and Theology with a concentration in American Catholic Studies at Fordham University (FCRH '26).