Greetings and blessings to you from the Eternal City! This Sunday morning I had the pleasure of joining in a special outdoor Mass celebrated by our Holy Father to mark the official opening of the synod and to canonize two saints – John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen.
I looked for priests from Louisville in Rome at the Mass and did not find them, but met two retired priests of Covington, Kentucky, so I was partly successful. I spent most of my time beginning to meet bishops with whom I will participate in the synod. They come from every continent.
It was wonderful to meet the other synod delegates. The real work of this three-week long synod – called the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” – begins tomorrow morning. Later this afternoon I will meet with Cardinal Dolan and the other United States bishop delegates to make final plans.
The signal that the work of the synod has arrived for me was the assignment of my seat – row E, seat 9 in section 1 – and my badge. Tomorrow I will submit my intervention on the “Blessing of the Child in the Womb” and begin the process of listening to many five-minute presentations as we all seek themes to hold up for our Church as we announce again the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our archdiocesan Why Catholic? theme of “Pray First” was brought home to me in the writings of John of Avila, the saint canonized on Sunday. This 16th-century Carmelite was quoted as saying that trying to please God without prayer is like swimming with one arm or walking on one foot. Though written 400+ years ago, St. John of Avila’s reflections are very relevant today. My prayers are with all of the Why Catholic? groups that began meeting in the last week.
On Thursday, our Holy Father will initiate the “Year of Faith” to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I look forward to that Mass and will have everyone in our Archdiocese in my prayers.
In his recent blog, Cardinal Wuerl summarized the synod very well. In his words, “The goal of both the ‘Year of Faith’ and the Synod for the New Evangelization is to reawaken the faith in Catholics in order to be better witnesses to the love of Christ and his Church. Through prayer, study and a firm intention to renew and deepen our faith, and with hearts transformed by Christ and his Gospel, we can change our own lives, and change the world.”
The pace for the synod will be a bit hectic. I will accompany Cardinal Dolan for curial visits as we bring vital issues from the United States and hear concerns and priorities. We will be presenting the summaries of these visits at next month’s Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore. This is a regular responsibility of the conference president and vice president.
Given the hectic pace, it will be important for rest and renewal throughout, and I am grateful to be staying at the serene North American College for morning Mass, meals, prayer, and sleep. I may even get some exercise at the track.
Until my next installment, let us pray for one another.
Friday, October 5, 2012:
This video was just released by Catholic News Service about the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization. It is brief (only 3 minutes) but provides a good introduction to the synod.