By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Red vestments representing the Holy Spirit replaced the green vestments of Ordinary Time during Mass Oct. 16-17 throughout the Diocese of Davenport to celebrate an extraordinary time in the church, the opening of Synod 2021-2023.
Pope Francis calls all dioceses in the world to participate in the Synod, which is a Greek word that means, basically, “walk with,” or “journey together.” Throughout history, “synod” has referred to gatherings of the Church to “walk with” one another and with the Holy Spirit, to read “the signs of the times” and discern in a spirit of prayer how the Church is being called to respond.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Synod Mass celebrated Oct. 17 at Sacred Heart Cathedral and live-streamed for Catholics and others unable to attend in person (https://tinyurl.
com/vupeh575). Later that afternoon, Vicar General Father Thom Hennen, who is also the cathedral’s pastor, led the virtual opening session of the diocesan synod. More than 80 parish representatives participated in the informational event.
The liturgy began in the back of the cathedral with Veni Sancte Spiritus, followed by prayer, the procession and the Litany of the Saints. Scripture readings reflected the three pillars of the Synod: Communion, Participation and Mission.
Bishop Zinkula wove the three pillars into his homily focused on Christians’ loving response to a loving, triune God. He described the Holy Trinity as a community of love. The Father as lover, the Son as beloved, and the Holy Spirit as the love shared by the Father and the Son. “How are we to respond to God’s unconditional and sacrificial love? By loving God in return.”
Loving God is part of the two-fold love commandment, the other part being love of neighbor.
The bishop said Pope Francis envisions the Synod as an opportunity for an expression of love for one another. “What are the elements of such love? What do people who love each other do? They spend time together, they encounter one another, they gather together,” the bishop said, making the connection to the first Synod pillar: Communion. “We are spread across our entire diocese, but God unites us as one.”
“In the second reading, Paul tells the Philippians (and us) to be ‘of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.’ The communion that God builds in our midst is stronger than any divisions. Amidst our many differences, we are united in our common baptism, as members of the Body of Christ. The experience of encounter changes us, frequently it opens up new and unexpected possibilities. People who love each other talk to each other and listen carefully and lovingly to each other. True encounter arises only from listening.”
Bishop Zinkula referred to the first reading, in Deuteronomy, to illustrate the pillar of Participation in the synodal process. “Deuteronomy reminds us that the word (law) of God dwells in the hearts of everyone, not just the hearts of a select few. We are all equally called to listen humbly and speak boldly as we enter this synodal process. Everyone is invited to share their questions, concerns, and hopes as we discern the path forward together.” People who love each other walk together; similarly, synod means “journeying together.”
In the third pillar of the synodal process, Mission, “we are going somewhere together. The synod is a process of special discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in this time and this place and the direction in which the Holy Spirit wants to lead us. Every Christian has a vital role to play in the mission of the Church. No one is excluded from the joy of the Gospel. As disciples of Jesus, we are leaven in the midst of humanity so that the Kingdom of God may rise in our midst.”
Bishop Zinkula ended his homily with the conclusion of Pope Francis’ homily for the opening of the Synod in Rome a week earlier: “Dear brothers and sisters, let us have a good journey together! May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. Let us not miss out on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter and listening and discernment. In the joyful conviction that, even as we seek the Lord, he always comes with his love to meet us first.”
After the dismissal, Bishop Zinkula led the faithful in the Adsumus Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the opening of the worldwide synod. The prayer asks the Holy Spirit: … “Do not let us promote disorder. Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right ….”
The afternoon opening session on Zoom underscored the Synod as a work in progress to engage Catholics, non-Catholics and people of no religious affiliation in dialogue in parishes, the community and among friends, neighbors and strangers this coming winter.
Resources for entering into these encounters and fostering fruitful dialogue are available on the diocesan website (https://tinyurl.com/vupeh575). As Patrick Schmadeke, diocesan director of Evangelization told opening session participants, “Pope Francis is calling for the largest dialogue in human history.”