Each month, Pope Francis asks for our prayers for a specific intention. For the month of October, the prayer intention is for a Church open to everyone.
May the church be a community of solidarity, fraternity and welcome,
always living in an atmosphere of synodality.
Any prayer we pray, invites us to do what the words say. How challenging is this prayer of Pope Francis for his intentions for the month of October!
Jesus said “Come.” Not come and be a Jew, or come and stop being a Gentile, or stop being a woman, slave, prostitute, tax collector. He simply said, “Come”.
So here we are, as Church, you and me and our neighbours, close and distant, invited to be faithful to and courageous in preaching the Gospel. We’re reminded of St Francis of Assisi who said something like “We should preach Jesus Christ always, and when necessary, use words”. Pope Francis goes on to pinpoint what it is that we might be preaching just now: a community of solidarity, fraternity and welcome, always living in an atmosphere of synodality. Let’s look at these one by one.
What does a community of solidarity, sisterliness/brotherliness and welcome look like to you? Is it one that offers welcome without expectations, accepts diversity and difference as a celebration of God’s creativity? How does it offer hospitality, sanctuary and connection? Most of us, if we scratch the surface, find some racism, some prejudices, and fears of difference that limit our attempts at welcome with an open heart. It might be migrants, refugees, people with different faiths, First Nations peoples, those with a different sexual orientation, those with different political or other values, those with mental illnesses. Consider the ways in which you are helping to create a community of solidarity, sisterliness/brotherliness and welcome.
Currently in Australia, we have a perfect opportunity to support our sisters and brothers in the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. We might look for opportunities to inform ourselves on this issue in order to be able to speak with authority and authenticity and really hear the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
A moment’s reflection on a time when you were excluded, helps to open the heart to compassion which enables us to be inclusive, to choose not to put that pain on another. Instead, compassion enables us to see and welcome Christ in the other, without fear, as love casts out fear.
Synodality is new to many of us. One definition is that it is the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God. In practice, it is a process of listening as we saw especially in the latter stages of the Plenary Council. It involves a deep listening to the other that precludes a planning of what I am going to say next. We all know how transforming is the experience of being truly heard and having another hold space for our story and personhood.
In whatever group we belong, we are in a position to enable the process of this listening which is at the heart of synodality, encouraging this atmosphere with our friends, within families, the wider community and any Church group, especially Parish Pastoral Councils.
So, how’s that for a challenge for October! May your praying and doing be gracefully fruitful.
Amanda Sturrock, Covenant Josephite & Frances Maguire rsj