Coming into the Synod on Synodality, I truly had no idea what to expect. Even with a lot of reading and multiple class discussions under my belt, I still felt unprepared. I was hearing different voices in the media who were saying that “the synod would be the end of the Church” or that “the Church has to use the synod to reform or it won’t last.” These conflicting voices really began to weigh on me, and I was feeling more and more as though the synod may lead to more wounds rather than healing. My opinion changed however, as we began to meet more people who were involved with the synod, and with that change in opinion I felt a greater sense of hope for the future of our Church.
Early on in our week-long study visit to Rome we met with Sr. Nathalie Becquart, one of the two Under-Secretaries of the General Secretariat of the Synod. She had been listening to a vast number of voices from all across the world since 2021, hearing many different opinions and understandings of the synod (including my own when she visited Fordham earlier this year).
When we met her in Rome, she greeted us with a smile, ready to listen to us and answer our questions. I was a bit taken aback by her calm and welcoming demeanor, since all the voices I was hearing from the media were telling me that the future of the Church was riding upon the synod. I learned where her demeanor came from when she told us Pope Francis had said that the synod is meant to make a mess. Her confidence in this statement showed me her unwavering faith in the Holy Spirit, because she knew that while bringing people from all over the world together to discuss the future of the Church would not be perfect, but the Holy Spirit would guide us through the mess.
Much like the photos we have around our homes that can make our families seem well ordered and put together, the synod acts as an attempt to show God how well we can come together within His Church. However, we know that this is not always the case. Our family photos do not show the full range of our personal experiences, all of the good or the bad. They do not show our imperfections, but rather a goal to strive towards, a moment in time to aspire to.
In a similar way, the synod acts as an avenue to be our family photo for God. It gathers people representing all the diverse parts of the Body of Christ at organized roundtables with set schedules. At these tables, however, are conversations in the Spirit, where members listen and share their experiences. These conversations can be messy, they can reveal our own human brokenness. But simply having these conversations serve to unify us before God, just like a family photo. The synod unified people from different backgrounds, bringing them together to pray, listen, and journey with one another.
This can be our family photo to God, a picture of a listening Church that despite our own imperfections, can come together, striving towards a goal bigger than ourselves.