The Deacon’s Bench pointed this interview out a few days ago, but the interview is such a great illustration of some of the themes I posted about earlier this week that I’m going to point to it again.
Sean Salai, SJ a Jesuit in formation who’s working as a summer intern at America magazine, has been posting a number of great interviews over there, including one with the Patheos Catholic Channel’s own Eve Tushnet. But as far as I’m concerned, the must-read Catholic interview of the summer is the one he did with Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport about the diocesan synod he convoked this summer.
Caggiano is clear that in calling the synod, he’s not trying to achieve a pre-arranged outcome. Much as I argued yesterday about Francis, Caggiano is willing to trust that God is at work among people who are seeking him:
[I]t’s true that I’ve had a number of people say to me: “Well, how do you control the synod?” And my response is it’s not for me to control. There is nothing to be afraid of when people speak their minds honestly and respectfully because the truth is the truth. The truth prevails regardless of circumstance, person, participants or venue. I firmly believe that with all my heart.
He’s also very much responding to Francis’ desire that creative renewal in the life of the Church should begin at the local level, and from the reality of people’s own direct experience of God.
My experience has been—both in Brooklyn and now certainly in Bridgeport—that most people are eager to be of help. But they need to be part of the solution-making process. They need to be asked their thoughts and input and then encouraged to become involved. People don’t just want their opinions asked; they also want to have some possibility of formulating what the program and the response is going to be. So on both levels, I think the Holy Father is absolutely on target, and at times we have not done such a great job of engaging lay leaders in creative and constructive ways. The synod is really meant to be the catalyst to do that.
Finally, he is focusing on conversion — on bringing people into contact with the God of mercy by embodying that mercy ourselves.
But I think the genius of Pope Francis is that he has expressed in words what I was intuiting, when he speaks about missionary discipleship, that we need to reach out one person at a time. That has phenomenal implications for the life of the church. If the methodology is “one person at a time,” then each and every baptized person is called to get involved. That’s the only way we’re going to do it. It also implies that we’re going to have to invest time to sit and listen to the people who we wish to invite back, to allow them to tell us their story, for healing whatever needs to be healed.