Angela…woman for Synodality…?

As I read the Instrument Laboris for the forthcoming Synod on Synodality and the methodology proposed I heard echoes of Angela Merici speaking to us her daughters of how we are to be together.

The first echo was from her Introductory Letter to the Rule “be attentive, your hearts enlarged and full of desire”.  In the preparation period towards this moment we have been invited to “enlarge the space of our tents” the tents of our hearts to make room for all people to come and be part of God’s family, the Church, just as Angela spoke of enlarging our hearts to make room for Christ, for one another and for all whom we encounter. Angela continues in the Chapter on Prayer (chapter V) in the rule “Let it be remembered that each one should be diligent about prayer, mental as well as vocal”.  Prayer is at the heart of the Synod gathering, prayer alone and together as members of the Synod but also united with those of us who are at home, we too are called to be attentive to prayer for and with the Synod as it seeks to bring Synodality to the heart of the Church’s way of being in the world today.

A second echo continues this theme of prayer in the Introductory Letter to the Counsels “you must pray God to enlighten you and teach you for love of Him” reminding us that our prayer brings us closer to God and that it is about

God’s way for us not our way.  In the same way, the Synod is about discerning God’s way forward for the Church today not just about what I want for my small place in the Church in the world.  As Angela says in the seventh counsel “Keep to the traditional way and practice of the Church established and confirmed by so many saints, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and lead a new life.”  Again, it is not just about change, rather it is about the Church of Jesus Christ and within that finding a new way forward, yes it may involve change – some we may not choose, some changes we may desire for our time and place that are not the changes God wants for the Church so we can take  lead from a third echo in Angela’s Last Legacy “if according to times and needs, it should happen that new ordinances are given, or something has to be done differently do it with prudence and good judgement, always let your principal resource be to take refuge at the feet of Jesus Christ and there…to pray fervently.”  A lesson for us all to take into our hearts as we think in new ways and embrace Synodality as way of being Church in all our local places and spaces, wherever they may be.

A fourth echo comes in her chapter on obedience (chapter VIII) of the Rule, “Above all, obey the counsels and inspirations which the Holy Spirit continually stirs up in our hearts…”  As we discern together, listening together to one another, open to hearing the Holy Spirit echoing in the hearts of each of us we are called to be attentive to what moves within us as we listen, what challenges us, what gives us hope, what astounds us, what excites us, what are we resisting…obeying the Holy Spirit can be hard, it can cause disagreement but it can also inspire and fire our hearts to go forward together as the pilgrim people of God in the world today.  This thought is echoed again in her Seventh Legacy “consult together…examine carefully what concerns government…provide for everything as the Holy Spirit inspires you”.  As the participants list was published this week it offers a broad spectrum of life of today – men and women, clergy, religious and laity – a first for a Synod, where all are called together to listen…to obey…to hear…and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead hearts and minds forward as together we “learn from our Lord, who while he was in the world, was like a servant”. (First Counsel) A timely reminder that all who are called to be present at the Synod in October are there as servants of the whole, who join them in fervent prayer and we “leave the rest to God. He will work wonders in His own time and when He pleases.” (Eighth Counsel)

Angela, in 1535, could not have envisaged the Church today, she could only offer her vision for her daughters of the Company of Saint Ursula as she heard the Holy Spirit speaking in her heart and yet I believe she offers wisdom to us all as we move towards this Synod on Synodality.

So let us continue to pray…to listen and to long for a synodal Church whose tent is enlarged to embrace all God’s children.

Karen OSU

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