Family Weekly e-newsletter 11 October 2023

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality has got under way, beginning with the impressive opening Mass in St Peter’s square on 4 October. It also coincided with other events, the ending of the Season of Creation, the presentation of the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum and the feast of St Francis of Assisi.   Much has been and will continue to be written about the synod and its current phase as the process unfolds this month, from October 4 – 29 2023, and then continues until its conclusion in October 2024.   

What is a synod all about? A synodis an assembly of Church leaders who address and make recommendations but a synod is not a deliberative body with decision-making powers. Leaders meet to engage in a structured conversation surrounding one issue or more, with the goal of making recommendations for the final decision-maker. A synod of priests and lay people in a diocese can take place to advise the bishop. A synod of bishops takes place to advise the pope. The current synod has a number of phases, having begun in 2021. The current assembly involves bishops but has been opened to clergy and lay people, both men and women.    

The process is an important aspect. At the local, most basic level, from 2021 onwards, listening sessions were held in local churches and issues and information gathered was collated and forwarded on to the next level, and so on.  The ultimate goal of this synodal process is to renew the Church and collectively discern a future for it.  The overall theme for the whole Synod is COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION, MISSION.  

Holding assemblies of the synodal process take time and effort. The goal is not efficiency, but rather effectiveness and engagement—a way of enabling members of the Body of Christ to influence how the Body will proceed. Each session in the formational process is aimed at shaping  the People of God.   The session format has been explained as being a “conversation in the Spirit” which has three basic steps. The first involves a person prayerfully speaking about their own experience; the second aims at “building bonds” by expressing what touched them most deeply and when, having “cultivated familiarity with the Lord,” they felt the Holy Spirit made their voice resound. The third step, “again under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” is about letting key points emerge from conversing in the Spirit that lead to action.  

For the current assembly reflection questions on issues raised have been provided as issues were already identified at local levels through the listening sessions.  They mainly concerned problem situations within the church, around abuse, priests, women’s role, LGBTQI. 

Family life was not noted as an important issue for consideration as such, but divorce and remarriage was raised.  This is a concern for me, which I have attempted to address wherever possible, as the daily life of the domestic church beyond the narrower context of the Church is not addressed.   

The process has similarities to the dialogue technique promoted and practiced about all aspects of their relationships in the Encounter movements for couple and family relationship building over the last 40 or more years in particular in Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille.    

Considered more widely, in my view, the potential for renewal through the synodal process is exciting.    “Dialogue” in varying forms as a psychological process is being adopted more widely in secular society, e.g. in divorce mediation training, in restorative justice and active listening and telling one’s story.  The SEE-JUDGE-ACT,  Pastoral Cycle, Small Christian communities and Renew groups using faith sharing have also adopted aspects of the process.  Practice in promoting family faith sharing using a similar process has been part of MARFAM’s mission throughout its nearly 30 years in the Family Hour,  Advent and Lenten family faith sharing activities and other opportunities  provided in publications.

 This October, as the month of the Synod on Synodality in Rome with its three-fold call to communion, participation and mission, this focus is also being applied by MARFAM again as family communication at home is even more important and valuable than communicating in a wider social or spiritual group. Family faith sharing is spiritual and practical.

We respond too to God, as Trinity, a family, a community of life and love and a model for all of creation. This is the eco-spirituality of LAUDATO SI and the goals of www.laudatosiactionplatform.  Families can enroll on the LAUDATO SI ACTION PLATFORM to learn more and become ever more eco-friendly families.   The new document LAUDATE DEUM will be used as it further develops some of the LS insight.   TR FAMILY WEEKLY E-NEWS


Discipline and finding an effective punishment for bad behaviour is an issue in all families at times. “How can the most suitable form and severity of punishment be worked out?”  This was the question put to the parenting skills course members. “When do you forgive, or let children – or partners – get away with the wrong they have done?”  Corporal punishment is still seen by some to be effective while it is widely recognised that violence begets violence.   The story of Jonah was given to the group for discussion, noting that the  book of Jonah, is a wonderful example of dialogue with God about punishment and what he thinks is deserved, while God is ever merciful.  It can be applied to our own situations too.

Reflect, share, act. Scripture It displeased Jonah greatly that God did not do the evil which he had said he would do to Nineveh and he was angry.  He said to the Lord, “I pray you Lord is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?” From Jonah 4:1-11. Pope Francis.   It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous mercy.  No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel.   AL 297. Pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love, so that walking together we may renew the face of the earth.