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10 Things to Remember About the Synod on the Family

6. It’s okay to be upset – Some Catholics are wringing their hands with dismay, believing the church fathers have abandoned the faith. They talk of becoming Eastern Orthodox or joining a conservative breakaway Protestant group or scampering off to the Lefebvrists. Don’t worry. It’s okay to be upset. I’m fed up with the wishy washy secularist talk in the relatio. I suspect foul play. I’m worried about the process and the players. I worry about the rumors that the gay lobby have taken over, the faith is being compromised and the “smoke of Satan has entered the church.” However, I also recognize that being upset is a healthy part of the process. Our faith is not supposed to make us comfortable all the time. It is a battle and warfare is uncomfortable. It is full of doubt and worry, fear and despair. So buckle on your armor, join in the battle. Speak your piece, listen to others and be engaged. If you’re angry or upset, well that’s one of the ways to be engaged.

7. Love is messy – Remember the subject of this synod is not some lofty theological concept, an inspiring saint or a serene spirituality. It’s family life. It’s marriage. It’s sex and babies and the whole messy business of being in love. We’re wrestling here with the most basic human passions and desires. Emotions run high. Hearts are broken. Wounds are open. All that we as human beings hold most dear, and that which we most fear is opened here. Of course we need the unchanging truths of the Christ and his church to be taught, but we also have to face the messy, messy business of love and marriage. We all need to roll up our sleeves, struggle with the big questions and work it out. This is the subject of the synod and we should be prepared for the mess that follows. Think of it this way: if you’re doing surgery you need to cut open the patient, shed blood, take risks, make a mess and then fix things and hope for healing. In the face of this we have to be patient, mature and kind.

8. Some Things Change – The brilliant thing about the Catholic Church is that she is capable of change where change is necessary. The Eastern Orthodox, some arch conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants never change anything. Ever. They expect the whole world to change for them. Liberal Catholics and mainstream Protestants are at the other extreme. They change everything according to the latest secular idea, fashion or craze. For them the church is always and ever evolving. The truly Catholic view is a balance between the two. We hold to the unchanging truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and will never compromise. On the other hand, the expression and application of those truths changes according to contemporary and cultural needs. The struggle of the synod is to work out that balance. What can we alter in order to bring the gospel to people in the midst of our morally crazy mixed up world? What can we adjust and how can we change our emphasis to do this without compromising the faith once delivered to the saints? It’s a tough one.

9. The Holy Spirit is in charge – So do you believe Christ’s promise to the church or not? The gates of hell will not prevail against his church. From the beginning there have been battles in the church. Through synods and councils and back room debates the church wrestles with angels and demons. Read church history. For that matter read the Old Testament. God works his purpose out through conflict and controversy. You can’t win a war unless you fight first, and within the battle the unfailing light of the Holy Spirit is there shining bright like the sanctuary lamp in a darkened church.  As another Jesuit has written, “The Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with  warm breast and with Ah! bright wings.

10. Prayers and Peace – If you’re upset about the synod have you taken it to God in prayer? If we rely on our own human wisdom we’ll soon end in frustration, fear and fanaticism. When we return to prayer we return to peace. We pray not only for the synod fathers, but for ourselves, that we might see clearly what God is doing in our church. Prayer will bring us a sense of proportion. We’ll be able to see the big picture and go with God. Prayer will open hearts to the love of Christ and open minds to the truth of his gospel. I need to pray more. Don’t you?