Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
The bishops of the Catholic Church are called together by the Pope at regular intervals – these meetings give the successors of the Apostles the chance to reflect on contemporary issues. The next ordinary synod is not due until 2015, but Pope Francis has called an extraordinary meeting for October 5th-19th this year to reflect on “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”. As well as representatives from episcopal conferences around the world, numbers of experts in varying disciplines both clerical and lay, women and men, will be helping the bishops explore complex issues. A briefing document tells us that among the pastoral challenges facing the synod will be unmarried couples who live together in de facto unions, separated and divorced couples, remarried divorcees and their children, single mothers, those who are in canonically irregular situations and non-believers or non-practising Catholics who wish to marry. It is obviously going to be a busy two weeks.
Some commentators have seen in the agenda for the upcoming synod the prospect of wholesale change in the Church’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. It seems unlikely that this will be so. Certainly there is genuine concern about the pastoral care for those who for whatever reason have become distanced from the Church. Pope Francis never holds back from declaring that we should be a Church which “goes forth” to meet people where they are, and there would seem to be a real desire on his part and one the part of the world’s bishops to look at ways in which we can reach out to the many who have become separated from the reception of the sacraments through broken or complicated relationships. Everything will be done to build strong and secure families given the high ideal set by the Catechism that “the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son on the Holy Spirit”.
Although the consultation which has preceded this extraordinary synod has caught the headlines in its willingness to grasp some fairly painful nettles, much of its concern is with the transmission of the faith within the family. The saintly John Paul 11 coined the phrase “a domestic church” to describe the Christian home, and any consideration about future evangelisation has to take seriously the formation of children within their own families: catechists and teachers have an important part to play, but the strongest influence on a child will always be the family in which it is brought up. “The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, to honour God and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society”.
It is perhaps worth gently reminding those who are parents that in the Baptism of their children they promised to hand on the faith to them. The fulfilment of that promise clearly involves finding the best Catholic education (where available) and the integration into the life of the local parish by bringing them to Mass each Sunday – but how many families ever pray together? Night prayers, perhaps a decade of the rosary led by the children, an introduction to the basic Catholic devotions, all this is an indispensable part of a child’s spiritual growth. The phrase that faith is “caught not taught” is so true: if parents really love the Lord, that love will communicate itself by a kind of osmosis, and it will remain part of a young person’s life experience. “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God”.
Pope Francis has called for a special Day of Prayer for the synod next Sunday 28th September.