Friday, October 19, 2018

People's Catholic Seminary- A Journey to Spiritual Transformation, Empowerment and Equality- Affordable and Accessible

As the Roman Catholic Church faces ongoing criticism for the world-wide sexual abuse crisis, the male seminary preparation program is under scrutiny for its emphasis on medieval scholastic theology, its failure to develop a wholistic approach to sexual and spiritual development, and its neglect of mystical spirituality and contemporary theological studies.

The People's Catholic Seminary provides a more integrative approach that presents the insights of contemporary theologians like Elizabeth Johnson, Ilia Delio, Amy Jill-Levine, Matthew Fox, Diarmuid O'Murchu Bishop Spong and many more. A wide variety of courses include biblical studies, theology, spirituality, mystics, liturgy, sacraments, and social justice.

Courses are designed for the women priests movement, members of our inclusive communities and spiritual seekers. Courses are affordable and available for personal enrichment, for a certificate and/or for Master in Pastoral Ministry degree in partnership with Global Ministries University. For more information visit  

Theologian Karl Rahner wrote “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”  Thomas Berry believed that humankind will not be able to transform our institutions and save our planet without the wisdom of women.
"The wisdom of women is to join the knowing of the body to that of the mind, to join soul to spirit, intuition to reasoning, feeling consciousness to intellectual analysis, intimacy to detachment. subjective presence to objective distance. (Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, (New York: Bell Tower, 1999. p. 180).

In her book, Personal Transformation and New Creation, Orbis, NY 2017 (pp. 38-39) Sister Ilia Delio describes a  global spiritual awakening that is arising - moving out of hierarchal structures and into fostering  community and connecting with creation. This revolution  requires spiritual literacy that leads to love and compassion.  Women are leading the way in this transformation.  Ilia reports that women are developing a new spiritual literacy, whereby they "define religion and spirituality for themselves, rather than being passively defined for them." This new spiritual consciousness applies to all religions and combines the insights of  contemplation and feminism. 

We are witnessing a creative mystical consciousness, rooted in altruistic love, that is shaping a new stage of evolutionary transformation for our earth community in the 21st century. 

What will this mean for the Roman Catholic Church in crisis?

There are unimagined possibilities and challenges for our international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement as a new model of egalitarian ministry emerges to renew the Church by living inclusivity and welcoming all to Banquet Table now!   

We invite you to accompany us on as we grow in knowledge and wisdom on the journey to gender justice, equality and empowerment.  Together we can do something new!

"Come to the Well" Song/Video

The Well

Leave it all behind, Leave it all behind,
Leave it all behind, Leave it all behind,

I have what you need,
But you keep on searchin',
I've done all the work,
But you keep on workin',
When you're runnin' on empty,
And you can't find the remedy,
Just come to the well.

You can spend your whole life,
Chasin' what's missing,
But that empty inside,
It just ain't gonna listen.
When nothing can satisfy,
And the world leaves you high and dry,
Just come to the well

And all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well

So bring me your heart
No matter how broken,
Just come as you are,
When your last prayer is spoken,
Just rest in my arms a while,
You'll feel the change my child,
When you come to the well

And all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well
Leave it all behind
The world will try, but it can never fill, leave it all behind

And now that you're full,
Of love beyond measure,
Your joy's gonna flow,
Like a stream in the desert,
Soon all the world will see that living water is found in me,
'Cause you came to the well

And all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well

Leave it all behind, leave it all behind
Leave it all behind, leave it all behind

Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Matthew West

Day 18 in Rome Pontifical council composed of youth proposed again; A letter to youth from the synod; More woman talk; Coming soon! My interview Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ by Deborah Rose-Milavec, Future Church

First off, we are getting ready to deliver our petition urging the Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis to make room for women religious superiors to vote!

We are nearly 8000 strong! But we want the strongest voice possible!

If you have not signed the petition or shared it, please do so!

The Synod office and many others inside the Synod hall know about this petition. Help us do our part to further full equality for women in the church. 

The briefing

Today, we were joined by Sr. Alessandra Simerilli, a powerhouse advocate for the poor and the earth, based in Italy; Archbishop Matteo Maia Zuppi of Italy who has been called the "Bergoglio of Bologna", and is known for his peace activism and the preface he wrote for James Martin's book on building bridges with the LGBT; Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M. of Ethiopia; Fr. Alexandre Awe Mellow, secretary for the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life; and instead of Greg Burke conducting, we had Paloma Garcia Overjero, the first lay woman appointed as Vice Director of Communications.

It was gratifying to see her in action with her very relaxed and easy going style.

Sr. Alessandra Smerilli began her comments by saying that she "dreams of a prophetic church" where economics and ecology are addressed recognizing they are inextricably linked to the suffering of the poor. Citing the importance of Laudato Si, she said that if we don't work together as a church to address the ills in our environment we will generate a whole new poverty.

Pontifical council of youth proposed again

Early on, when Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ, the Vice President of the UISG, proposed that there be an International Pontifical Council made of young people during her four minute intervention, she was cheered by the young people sitting in the synod hall, a phenomena that has marked this synod as a very different experience from others.

Prefect Paolo Ruffini mentioned it again today as part of his press report and it seems the idea has come up quite a number of times at the synod, properly encouraged with the "woo-hooing" from the young auditors. In addition, Ruffini mentioned that "a woman could head up the council."

To which I say, "Woo hoo!"

The idea of a council has traction and could serve as an important vehicle for creating a church that is, not only more fully engaged with youth, but more in touch and empathetic to the variety of problems they face, including those who have moved away from the church because of its rigidity and exclusive ways. It could also serve as a vehicle for addressing the gap in equal opportunity for roles for women in the church.

The other idea that has gained traction and is popular with the young adults attending the synod is the idea of creating a digital platform for engaging youth. Over and over again, this idea has been applauded by the youth at the synod whenever it is introduced.

Part three of the Instrumentum Laboris is being discussed this week and the focus is on developing concrete strategies for engaging young Catholics, not only here at the synod, but in the wider church.

That will be the real test of this month long adventure.

A letter to youth from youth

It has been decided that a group of people from the synod will compose a letter to young people, separate from the final document which will be longish, and probably ignored by too many Catholics, young, old, ordained, and lay.

The elected group of eight participants to begin drafting a message are youth auditors Briana Santiago of the United States, Anastasia Indrawan of Indonesia along with Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Auxiliary Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard of Lyon, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, and Bishop Eduardo Horacio Garcia of San Justo, Argentina. Fr. Alois, prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taize, and auditor Michele Falabretti, leader of the youth pastoral care office at the Italian bishops’ conference are also part of the group.

To add some context, while there has been a lot of good feelings about the connectedness people feel at the synod, there are those who seem to be unshakable in their demands for a new way.

In an interview with Mary Rezac from Catholic News Agency, Sister Benedicta Turner of the Daughters of St. Paul hopes that the synod fathers recognize young people’s desire for clarity and truth, even when it is difficult.

“It is a generation that strongly values clarity and authenticity, perhaps to a fault. Slick, expensive presentations go ignored while raw, sincere testimony is held with reverence,” she said.

Turner said that Church leaders need to return to an authentic presentation of the totality of the Gospel, and to challenge rather than compromise with the current culture.

“I think we need leaders who are willing to answer the hard questions young people are asking, who are more inclined to engage the culture than to make excuses for it, and who are willing to admit mistakes and failure with honesty and humility,” she said.

“We need leaders who are unafraid to give us the Gospel in its most intense, undiluted form; the Gospel for which the martyrs offered their lives and whose beauty has inspired countless works of art over the centuries,” she added.
Only this kind of engagement with the Gospel and the hearts of young people will be effective in calling them out of complacency and into relationship with Christ, she said.

Br. Neil Conlisk, a 30 year-old Carmelite brother, told CNA that he feared the synod’s bishops would not listen to young people’s desire for authenticity and truth and that they would continue on with “business as usual” and talk past young people. 

“No one wants a worldly Church,” he said. “I fear that the Synod Fathers will try to change the Church in the name of the youth, but this ‘change-the-church’ fever is a symptom of the illness that has caused the long decline, and we simply cannot afford to destroy the Church any more.”

“We are hearing, from many bishops, moralistic therapeutic deism, but we want the fullness of the faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” he added.
In addition to speaking the truth, Johnson said that what he hopes arises from the synod is a greater recognition throughout the Church of the need to live lives of holiness, so that young people have examples to follow in the Christian life.
“Young people need to see examples of holiness so that they know that Christianity is true, it’s beautiful and its attainable,” he said.

When young people need to see that there are Christians who “weren’t born perfect, but there are people who admit their weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength and are able to lead lives of holiness,” whether that person is a bishop or a priest or a lay member of the Church, he said.

This need for examples of Christian holiness is not new, Borsellino told CNA, but it is a constant need throughout the history of the Church.

“Young people need radical, authentic witnesses of the Gospel in this world that are willing to speak to their hearts,” she said. “It has always been and will always be a need. Jesus knew that well when he formed those intimate relationships with his disciples.”

They are getting real and I love it!

More woman talk

Paolo Ruffini also shared the ongoing dialogue about the role of women.

He said synod participants say that there needs to be a "cultural conversion" in the Church when it comes to the role of women.

Further, there is agreement that they need to be given an equal place, not only in society, but in the Church.

He also reported that there was a proposal that a Synod on women should be convened.

Let's get some dates on the calendar for these proposals and make it happen!

Coming soon! My interview with Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ

Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ, is Vice President of the International Union of Superiors General and one of women who could vote along with her male counterparts at the synod if all things were equal.

While I will post the whole interview in full this weekend, I just want to report that, Sr. Sally confirmed that the USG and the UISG will be developing a proposal and strategy for getting women the vote at synods.

Wouldn't it be great if that were in place for the next synod in 2019? 

Of course, it would have been better if it had been in place a long time ago, but this is progress.

The walls around the Vatican that have kept women out are crumbling as we speak!

An important voice at the synod coming from Nigeria

Vincent Paul Nneji of Nigeria urged the church to be more just in its treatment of lay people in his region. His message moved beyond what has become the usual deference displayed, to an authentic cry that shed light on the real experiences of youth.

He talked about survival. And basic needs, like work...and food...and shelter.
And his points are really worth repeating.

A lot of us work as volunteers in the church (with our talents and time) because we derive joy in God's service. 

However, instead of feeling part of her, we feel used by her as many of us have little or no means of livelihood and we have little or no choice other than to 'depend on the scraps that falls from the master's table.' 

We have talents, but there is little or no platform to express the same, even as church volunteers.

  • The church should pay apt attention to our upbringing, especially with choosing our career path.
  • The church should deliberately outline the steps for vocational discernment in the catechism.
  • We ask for a church that prioritizes more the capacity for development for young people rather than structural or institutional development.

We want to start dreaming again with firm hope that they church will pay more attention to our individual dreams, encouraging and accompanying us in the process of achieving them.

To that the whole church should say, "Amen!".

Possible progress in Vatican-North Korean talks

In case you didn't see it, Pope Francis and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin met with the president of South Korea today, Mr. Jae-in Moon. It has been reported that the pope received an oral invitation to visit North Korea through President Moon, but that they will look for an formal invitation before responding.

I am recalling the joyful face of Sr Mina Kwon of S. Korea and the Archbishop of S. Korea, that I heard in the first week of the press briefings and can only imagine the hope they feel at these developments.

May the voices of faith, reason, and hope fill the airwaves and help drown out those that stoke hatred and fear.

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Reporting from Rome

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Adopting Political Tactics at Synod is Understandable, but Misplaced" by Michael Sean Winters, NCR, I Disagree, Synods Are Times for Discussions on Changing Toxic Teaching and Challenging Patriarchal Practices by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Pope Francis greets bishops as they arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS/Paul Haring)

My Response: I disagree with Michael Sean Winters article on misplaced tactics. We, the baptized are the Church, not just the hierarchy, and all of our voices should be represented in decision making that will change toxic teachings and discriminatory rules! We  are not crying out for change from outside, the Spirit is moving through all of us -evolving the Church into a more loving, just and inclusive Body of Christ on earth. When half of the members- women- are excluded, we have a major problem. The Synod is a consultative body of mostly bishops giving advice to the pope. While a few unordained male leaders of religious orders are allowed to vote,  no religious women are allowed to vote.  This is an example of the patriarchy and clericalism that needs to be addressed now, not some other time!

No matter what is decided by the majority vote, the pope has the power to change it in the final document.  While Pope Francis denounces clericalism, this is an example of top down, hierarchy in action that must change.  

Michael Sean Winters praises Pope Francis for this Synod and cautions against protest or even discussing the hot button issues that concern LGBTQI and advocates of women's equality.

In my view, unless the whole Church is represented and has a decision-making role,  the Synod may be a wonderful gathering, but it fails to honor the movement of the Spirit speaking through the entire people of God. Rules that limit who can vote to mostly bishops need to be changed now, not sometime in the future! The hierarchy cannot continue to treat women as second class citizens when we are half of the membership of the Church. 

Kudos to the courageous activists at the Synod, who represent millions of Catholics for their prophetic advocacy for justice. The Spirit is spreading holy discord to move the Church to deeper communion and greater diversity. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,,

Michael Winter's Article: 
"I have not been shy about criticizing those conservative voices that have, in one way or another, viewed this month's Synod of Bishops with skepticism, whether that has been Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput's publishing a theologian's critique of the instrumentum laboris or J.D. Flynn's fretting about the rules.
Some friends on the left have also adopted an approach to the synod that seems out of touch. The Women's Ordination Conference staged a protest outside the Vatican as the synod opened. They certainly have a legitimate gripe: I can understand why a Synod of Bishops should restrict voting to bishops, but once voting is extended to non-ordained men, it should be extended to non-ordained women also.
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Indeed, I am sympathetic to the fact that sometimes a marginalized group must shout from the perimeter of an event from which they are excluded to gain any attention at all. Still, I think adopting a tactic we associate with political life is misplaced at the synod, at least as Pope Francis is trying to change the synodal process.
Similarly, a coalition of gay rights groups combined forces under the banner "Equal Future" to urge the synod to listen to the voices of LGBT youth who have been harmed by societal prejudice against gays. The group's leader, Tiernan Brady, goes out of his way to explain that his is not an "anti-church" campaign.
The group released a poll during the synod that shows a majority of Catholics in the eight largest Catholic countries support changing the church's teaching on LGBT issues. So what? The intrusion of political ways of thinking is understandable, but is it helpful?
In both cases, as well, the determination of the activists seems misplaced when you consider the ecclesial reality the pope faces. It is self-evidently true that if you are a bishop in the West, you know, or should know, that the vast majority of our young people find our teaching on homosexuality morally repugnant. It seems clear to most that the church needs to find creative ways to include women in all decision-making.
But is either of these issues exactly ripe for discussion at this moment in a synod of the entire church? When all hell broke loose at the last synod when the much less contentious issue of providing Communion to the divorced and remarried was broached? I say "less contentious" for the simple reason that the other lung of the church, our Orthodox brothers and sisters, adopted the approach to Communion for those in a second marriage that Francis has now permitted in the Latin church.
Conservatives should not get a veto over progress by threatening to cause a furor, but sometimes the potential that a premature conversation will set things back even further exists. I think the best that could be hoped for on these topics at this is synod is a recognition that the current teachings on both homosexuality and the role of women in the church are inadequate and an encouragement of dialogue at the local and national levels.
Sexuality is such an inculturated reality, we should not be surprised at the variety of its expressions. We Catholics also have a proud tradition of supporting universal understandings of human rights since at least the magisterium of Pope Pius XII. Reconciling those intellectual impulses will not be easy, still less with a 2,000-year tradition built on protological misunderstandings of sexuality. A whole lot of listening has to occur before these issues are ripe.

I was moved by the words of Archbishop Peter Comensoli at the end of his interview with my colleague Joshua McElwee:
It's not just a matter of hearing ... voices and coming up with some sort of consensus of opinion. If the synod is reduced down to a particular opinion winning the day, then it's not truly a synod. That's a political meeting. ...
Here we're giving expression to the life of the church. If we're giving expression to the life of the church, then we're giving expression to the life of the body of Christ and how might that body … need to be expressed in the context of our young people at the moment. ...
I think that's part of my responsibility, at least as one of the voters, to search in that way and to find something to say. To express something is to communicate something, so something needs to be said. And what might that be is part of the journey of these next few weeks.
The words "what might that be" indicate that docility of spirit that marks someone who is genuinely looking for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, someone who does not enter the conversation convinced he has all the answers, maybe not even all the questions. And his distinction between "winning the day" and genuine synodality gets to the heart of what I think Francis is after in the reforms he has already introduced to the synods.
Let's remember what became of this most defining of post-conciliar institutions before Francis. Pope Paul VI launched the first synods and they were admittedly unwieldy, trying to accomplish too much in too short of a time. Under Pope John Paul II, they became exercises in sleep deprivation, so boring it amounted to torture to expect the participants to stay awake. Pope Benedict XVI introduced the karaoke hour, setting aside the last hour of each day for any synod father to come to the microphone and say whatever he wished, and that loosened things a bit.
But Francis has brought his experience from Latin America, in which there is widespread consultation in advance of a meeting of the continent-wide bishops' conference, CELAM; the bishops begin with days of prayer together before the formal meetings commence; and there is a participatory discussion throughout.
The potential for increased synodality to help the church in so many ways makes me hope that those who want change in the church, even those who want change I would applaud, will give the pope some wiggle room. If he were not plowing ahead with reforms on a variety of fronts, I would say, to hell with waiting. But he is. The Viganò testimony showed the kind of small-minded nastiness he is up against.
Instead of trying to affect the synod from the outside with essentially political means, maybe prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit within the aula are what are needed."
[Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.]
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Day 17 in Rome My mistake and my apology; Brother Alois as the model for a renewed church; Sometimes it is hard to listen by Deborah Rose-Milavec, Future Church

My Response: Our fundamental need today is to accompany one another in loving presence with our passion for justice, equality and a more inclusive, compassionate Church, the people of God, evolving and growing in communion and blessed acceptance of our diversity as gift.
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,,
A colleague contacted me to tell me that I may have misunderstood the exchange between Cardinal Bruno Forte and Greg Burke regarding a two part question on Humanae Vitae that I wrote about last week. 

I asked that person to go back and check the original exchange in Italian which I heard through a simultaneous translation.

Today, I learned that I was wrong about the sequence and as such, I was wrong about Greg Burke’s professionalism. In that, I maligned my brother’s reputation. 

It appears that the veil of objectivity that I originally suggested had slipped was mine, and not his. 

For this I apologize. And as we say when entering into the sacrament of reconciliation, I am sincerely and heartily sorry.

And now the politics

John Allen writes a superb column on what's at stake in the synod process and why the process is contentious. An excerpt of his article is below.

According to Allen

Crux learned that a preliminary version of that final document has been prepared and given to members of a drafting committee. selected last week, with five members elected by the synod, two sitting on the body ex ufficio, and three appointed by the pope. Though it’s not clear who wrote the preliminary version, it was presented to the drafting committee by the synod office headed by Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.

To understand why they matter, both developments require a bit of explanation.

First of all, talk of “rigging” of the process probably has been a little overheated from the beginning. As Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles pointed out in a Rome event Oct. 4 sponsored by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, every meeting is at least a little “rigged,” in the sense that organizers wouldn’t call it without some basic sense of desired results.

That said, Church conservatives often can’t help but suspect that the deck is stacked against them, and it didn’t help this time that Pope Francis introduced a new set of rules, one element of which is that the synod will no longer end with a series of recommendations which usually lay the basis for an eventual apostolic exhortation.

This time, the synod will produce an integrated final document that will be presented to the pope. If he gives it his approval, then it would become part of the Church’s ordinary magisterium, meaning the routine exercise of its teaching authority.

That new codicil, naturally, raises the stakes a bit in terms of the importance of the document, and bishops participating in this synod want to be sure that the final version genuinely reflects their input. If there had just been one sweeping vote at the end, it would have been much harder to flag which parts of the text were troublesome; now, with paragraph-by-paragraph tallies, it should be easier to know where consensus does and doesn’t exist.

Some observers had floated the possibility that if the only option was an all-or-nothing vote on the final text, some pocket of bishops might actually refuse to sign the final text, in an effort to demonstrate that it wasn’t really the product of genuine consensus.

Of course, ultimately all the synod can do is advise the pope, and it remains up to him what to do on the basis of the advice. In theory, even if a given paragraph doesn’t obtain a two-thirds majority to be part of the text, the pope could decide to revive it; and even if a paragraph does cross the threshold, a pope could still nix it.
Under these rules, however, at least bishops won’t be able to say they didn’t have the opportunity to make it clear where both their support and their concerns reside.
On the other hand, it may not do much among those already inclined to skepticism to hear that rather than waiting for the drafting committee to do its work, the synod office prepared its own working text to put before the group. To some, that’s likely going to sound like an exercise in stacking the deck, essentially confronting the committee with a fait accompli.

In all fairness, one could make the argument that the idea of ten exhausted and frazzled prelates drafting not just a set of recommendations but an entire, cohesive teaching document in just three weeks, ex nihilio, was a fantasy. They need something to start with, and theoretically it makes as much sense for the synod office to provide that base text as anyone else.

As one synod participant put it on Monday, “The thought that somehow [a few] selected people would sit down, craft and write many pages of material … a whole document … is not exactly realistic.”

Further, the great likelihood is that most of the material in the preliminary version of the document is drawn from either the instrumentum laboris, the working document for the synod, or from the early round of discussion inside the assembly. 

In other words, there doesn’t have to be anything especially nefarious about it.

The problem is that however logical that explanation may be, it wasn’t made public before the fact. Certainly, synod officials understand by now that there’s a certain constituency, including a bloc of bishops, inclined to see the entire exercise through a hermeneutic of suspicion, and the idea that a pre-fabricated text was waiting for the drafting committee immediately after the body was assembled is unlikely to help. 

Brother Alois as the model for a renewed church

Today, the panelists who briefed us included fraternal delegate Pastor Marco Fornerone of World Communion of Reformed Churches, Brother Alois, Prior of the Taize Community, Fr. Mauro Giorgio Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist., and Archbishop David Bartimej Tencer, O.F.M. Cap. of Iceland.

Archbishop Tencer from Iceland held our attention as he talked about the obstacles of distance and climate he overcomes in order to form community there. In that, the digital world has created new opportunities for community and for education. So instead of cursing the abuses of the internet, he suggested that the Church make full use of the opportunities presented for strengthening community, especially among young Catholics.

Two other exchanges that point to the gifts that ecumenism offers the Catholic Church stood out.

Fraternal delegate Pastor Marco Fornerone of the World Communion of Reformed Churches explained that within his tradition, the process for developing a consensus on pastoral practices is inclusive and fully representative of all members. As such, there are more lay persons involved than ministers.

And he brings that experience to the synod where he explained that his intervention on the floor and his suggestions in his small group are treated with the same deference given to each and every person in the group.

And while we long for a synod process that is fully representative of the entire People of God, it is also important to remember the step Pope Francis took in 2015 that revolutionized the synod process.

Instead of an endless stream of interventions in the aula that had been the norm under previous popes, Pope Francis restructured the synod creating a space for authentic dialogue and exchange in small language groups. And while these exchanges have been revolutionary in and of themselves, it is also important to understand the impact it has on the final document to flows from the synod.
While the role of auditors is limited in that they cannot vote on each paragraph of the final document, nonetheless, their influence regarding what goes into the final document has absolutely been strengthened with Pope Francis’ reform.

In that context, it was heartening to hear that the wisdom and experience of another tradition and the way they have learned to build a structure around what they value is being heard within the synod.

Brother Alois of Taize

If there has been one voice at the synod that serves as a model for how to be church together and how to walk humbly and together with our younger sisters and brothers, it is Brother Alois.

His radiant love filled the room — a love that can only come from knowing and deeply trusting God and the God within each person he meets.

I’ll take a triple scoop of that, please.

When asked what the bishops might learn from the way the people of the Taize community meet those who arrive at their doorstep, he suggested that each parish should be a place of sharing of our spiritual lives, but also material sharing.
He said, “When the young see there is an authentically loving community, they are naturally attracted to it.”

He also said that we don’t pray for young people, but that we pray with them, walk with them and learn together with them.

And finally, and most importantly, he said that we must let them be free — free to choose what they can embrace and what they cannot in the life of love that is offered.

Somedays, God delivers an infusion of grace directly to the heart.

Today, that happened for me.

As I sat in the press room, I couldn’t stop the flow of tears that streamed down my cheeks as I thought about what I and all my/our children could learn from a man and a community such as this.

This is the profound love that changes the world.

I included Brother Alois’ intervention at the synod below. It is also on the Taize website.

Responding to the spiritual thirst of the young and to their search for communion

Articles 68 and 69 of the Instrumentum Laboris express the desire for a “more relational” Church, capable of “welcoming without judging in advance”, a “close and friendly” Church.

My brothers and I are often surprised to hear young people we welcome in Taizé say that they feel “at home” there, and we wonder why. It may be that, to be truly themselves, they need to feel useful, to see their creativity encouraged, to receive responsibilities.

Then their spiritual thirst awakens and it is important to go patiently, together with them, to the sources of faith. They know that they are welcomed by a community, first in the common prayer where all participate actively, by singing, listening to a brief biblical reading, a long moment of silence. And often they deepen a personal relationship with Christ.

We make sure that the liturgical signs avoid formalism, but are beautiful and simple. For example, we see how deeply young people participate, every Friday night, in a prayer around the cross, to lay down before Christ what is too heavy for them.

We say to ourselves: like Christ, let us listen to them with our hearts, reminding ourselves that he is already at work in their lives – and let us respect the sanctuary of their conscience. Those who listen must be accompanied themselves. There is a lack of accompaniers in the Church: could a ministry of listening be entrusted not only to priests, men and women religious, but also to lay people, men and women?
In Taizé, young people also discover that the Church is communion. Without creating an organized movement, we always send the young people back to their parishes and the places where they live. So many of them like to pray together with others of different faiths. They understand, if only implicitly, the call of Christ to be reconciled without delay.

We have recently experienced such a communion at an Asian young adult meeting in Hong Kong, a stage in our pilgrimage of trust. Of the young participants, 700 came from mainland China – it was the joy of the Holy Spirit.

I would now like to make a concrete proposal. Often, the words used and the manner of speaking are obstacles that prevent many young people from hearing what the Church says. Could not the final document be accompanied by a short letter, written in a simple style, addressed to a young person looking for meaning in his or her life?

I would like to summarize what I just said with a few words from Brother Roger, the founder of our community:

“When the Church listens, heals, reconciles, she becomes what she is at her most luminous, a communion of love, of compassion, of consolation, a clear reflection of the Risen Christ. Never distant, never on the defensive, freed from all harshness, she can radiate the humble trusting of faith into our human hearts.”

Ok, can I just get a gallon of that in a take-home carton?

Sometimes it is hard to listen

Tonight the BBC produced a show that will appear on "Heart and Soul" with a panel of five young Catholics talking about their faith and their experience in the Church along with comments and discussion with members of the audience.

Nuala McGovern was the host and the participants came from a variety of regions such as Samoa, Nigeria, the United States, and Italy. Some of the panelists are also auditors at the synod. In addition, she interviewed Kate McElwee of Women's Ordination Conference whose video will appear in the show.

First of all, I thought Nuala was brilliant as the host. She really understood the lay of the Catholic land.

Also, the questions and responses were quite lively and free flowing. It seemed that everyone had a chance to speak their mind.

Still, I wish the BBC had be able to achieve more balance in the panelists they chose.
Four of the panelists appeared to espouse varying degrees of what I would assess as a Pope John Paul II view of Catholicism complete with a strong defense of complementarity, the Catholic Church’s “separate, but equal” framework.

Just one, a young self-identified lesbian Catholic from Rome, spoke of her love for the Catholic Church despite the discrimination she faced. Although her family was very supportive, she spoke of the Church as a Mother and how painful it was to feel rejection because of her identity.

Ultimately, she feels the church is changing on this issue and will grow into a more welcoming place for our LGBT sisters and brothers.

As I walked back home, I pondered Brother Alois’ words that day as I reflected on what had been said during the BBC show.

I found it difficult and painful to listen to those who are convinced that women and men should be take up certain roles in accordance with their God-given biological sex and all the assumed advantages attached to each sex. I thought of the suffering of the women, including some women religious, who know they are called to the priesthood and to other ministries that are simply not available to them within our church. And I thought the social assignment of certain characteristics based on sex and how that has been turned on its head in so many ways. Most close to my own heart is the way my sons-in-law exhibit what would at one time been thought of as maternal tenderness toward their children, as well as, vulnerability and a deep respect rooted in a firm sense of equality with my daughters. Those characteristics were often and practically absent in my parent’s and grandparent’s generation.

It was hard to hear some say that women should not be priests because Jesus chose twelve male apostles. The lack of exposure to biblical criticism and to our long history of interpretation within the tradition was manifest.

It was troublesome to hear some say that having women priests would just add to clericalism, a logic that is never applied to any other sector. And when it has, such as in the days when many thought women were too delicate to be involved in politics, it simply exposed a patriarchal impulse to keep women out.

It was painful to hear some brush aside the stories of deep human pain in the inability to conceive children and to simply defend the church’s teaching on in vitro fertilization. I thought about one of my daughter’s friends who felt crushed by those in her community who simply repeated church teaching without ever understanding her suffering.

As I tried to imagine what Brother Alois would think and say given his deep ability for embracing all, I recognized that I share a passion for justice and a love for the church with these younger Catholics and that this forum was not a place where we might all go deeper, share our own evolving spiritualities, and come to a better understanding of each other.

Still, I wished Brother Alois could have been sitting center stage, offering his understanding of God’s radical and “foolish” love in a church where, too often, law trumps generosity and rules are used to divide.

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Reporting from Rome