A Symposium on the October Synod for the Family!

There is nothing like a Symposium in Summer, or at least that’s the way Patheos sees it, and when we’ve undertaken them, they’ve been ambitious, thoughtful and fun.

This year, scaling back a little and trying something different, Patheos has devised a Summer Symposium utilizing the Public Square section of the site, and leaving each channel manager to choose a topic. Given the enormous (and it must be said, often unrealistic) expectations being placed upon October’s Extraordinary Bishop’s Synod on the Family, that topic — and some background on synods — seemed like a no-brainer our channel.

Despite the fantasies being propelled in secular media,
the Extraordinary Synod is not primarily a doctrinal event, but — as evidenced by the recently-released Instrumentum Laboris — a pastoral one. Since that’s true, and because the press seems intent on muddying up that distinction, we will spend the week addressing the pastoral methods of outreach we hope to see discussed and modified, and such reforms as might realistically be possible. We are not looking to break off into trot about things that will not happen. The fallout from the meeting may result in a “tweak” on the issue of divorce (with the “Orthodox Option”) and perhaps a “tweak” toward a “married priesthood” (again, along Orthodox lines) and those two tweaks will be monumental enough — if they occur.

The biggest part of the synod will be about identifying where the church has failed in teaching itself — the whys and wherefores of what she teaches, which she has literally blown for two generations — and how to pastorally, and clearly, and sensitively shepherd families that no longer look or think like Ozzie and Harriet. To that end, you will see pieces here that may surprise you. You will not like or agree with all of them, but that’s alright. Some of this is about wondering, and as St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “only wonder leads to knowing.”

Over the course of a week, individual writers will be anticipating the Synod by doing essentially what the Bishops will do, themselves, in October: taking the opportunity (as Calah Alexander does so well, here) to name particular issues that interest them, touch on their daily lives or engage their passions, and then express their hopes as to what possibilities exist within our theology and our teachings that will help the church to better meet people where they are, and help them to know Christ Jesus. In our writer’s cases, things will be more along the line of what they’d be grateful to hear during the synod.

In her book How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt writes, “The Christian story itself is a story told through the prism of the family. Take away the prism, and the story makes less sense. We men and women, whether inside the churches or not, are only at the beginning of understanding how the fracturing of the natural family has in turn helped to fracture Christianity.” Very true; as our Symposium is all about the family, we take the Holy Family as our patrons and feature them in a detail from from El Greco’s Holy Family with St. Anne, which you see above.

The image says something real and immediate about marriage and the family, and complementarity, which we suspect will be a prominent issue in the synod. The woman is literally food for the baby. The man is the necessary (and yes, valuable) figure of strength and fortitude who, importantly, frees the woman, enabling her to give the baby the unrelenting care and attention he both needs and deserves. This is a thing that matters, and we’ve gotten away from it.

The Symposium is going to be continually updated during the week, with pieces added by both guest writers and the channel bloggers, who are raring to go on this thing, so do continue to check the Symposium landing page here, but also our Catholic Channel features page, where you can find all of our blogger’s stuff updated continually at their thumbnail photos.

And of course, I’ll be pointing you toward all of the thoughtful, informed, concerned and realistic-yet-optimistic Synod Symposium reads, and responses, every single day, beginning within the hour. So, pray for me. :-)

But first, let us pray the prayer for the Synod, with which the Holy Father concludes the
Instrumentum Laboris:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer!


And happy reading!

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About Elizabeth Scalia