My first day in Rome, on Saturday, October 14, was a whirlwind. We arrived from the airport to the religious community house where we are staying around 11:00 a.m., and spent the afternoon exploring the city with David Gibson as our guide. After dinner, David led a contingent of our group on a walk back to our residence.
The night was warm, and, despite the looming threat of jet-lag, the energy of the city was invigorating. As we began our trek, David remarked that Rome encapsulates both the “sacred” and the “profane.” I soon discovered what he meant, and found it to be a beautiful representation of the human fraternity we hope to strengthen and live out through the Synod on Synodality. We moved along cobblestone streets, dodging passing cars and scooters as we went, while cigarette smoke permeated the air like incense. Patrons laughed outside of bars and restaurants, bathed in the glow of streetlights, their food and drink a communion banquet of its own. Further down the street, passersby stood vigil in a church doorway, listening to a choral concert, their silhouettes turned shadow against the warm light within.
Approaching the end of our walk, we wandered into St. Peter’s Square, the center of Vatican City, drawn in by the sound of voices ringing out into the night. Catholics of all cultural backgrounds, ages, and vocations had gathered to participate in a sung Rosary. A procession carrying candles followed an icon of the Holy Family, creating a ribbon of flickering light that flowed across the square. As I stood alongside dozens of fellow believers, witnessing a community of the faithful literally walking together in prayer, just as we are called to do in the Synod, I could only think: this is the Synodal Church.