Trusting the Holy Spirit to bless listening, learning

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | September 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

Huddled in St. Joseph Hall at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center for a practice round of a Pre-Synod Prayer and Listening Event, I found myself entering deeply into the guided prayer and especially our moderator’s first set of questions: What is going well in the archdiocese? Where do we see blessings in our experience of the local Church?

I didn’t have to look very far to arrive at a heart-felt response: the three dozen volunteers who had given up a Friday morning to help our Synod team fine-tune our process reminded me of how blessed I am to be serving in a diocese alongside so many exceptionally generous and committed lay Catholics.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

They represented a good cross section of our archdiocese, reflecting at many levels the cultural, linguistic, demographic and ecclesiological diversity that we find among Catholics in our 12 counties; yet they were clearly united in their desire to build up this local Church. Their articulate responses to the discussion questions, as well as their insightful critiques of the experience, showed not only a solid grasp of the rationale that undergirds our Synod process but also a profound familiarity with the very real contemporary challenges facing parishes, schools and families, both here in the archdiocese and beyond.

I was encouraged that they shared my conviction that we have to make the Prayer and Listening Events as broad-based and user-friendly as possible. While aware that there’s bound to be some disagreement whenever a large and diverse group is assembled, they reiterated the importance of creating a safe space for individuals to share their reflections on the state of the Church and of our archdiocese, no matter how popular or unpopular those comments might be, trusting that the Holy Spirit will bless our attempts at respectful listening and learning with a deeper appreciation of the struggles and experiences of our brothers and sisters, even when they sit on the other side of the pew. It’s only with our fingers on their pulse, and theirs on ours, that we will together be able to set the archdiocese on the course that the Holy Spirit has chosen for us to move forward.

I can’t help but think of a recent quote in the secular arena from NY Times commentator Ross Douthat (later tweeted by former president Barak Obama!): “… nothing should temper partisanship more than an awareness that somewhere, on some issue, people with whom you disagree are telling a story that you really need to hear.” If we are going to be a successful Spirit-driven Church that expresses the unity that Christ desires for us, we have to be open to listening for what we need to hear, even from those with whom we disagree, no matter how uncomfortable. In Christus Vivit, the exhortation that Pope Francis released earlier this year in response to the Synod on Young People and Vocations, the Holy Father noted that “A Church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum.”

If those who gathered for the practice round are representative of the faithful of the archdiocese,
I suspect that we will be hearing a great deal in the months to come about the need to make sure that we don’t “lose our youth” or allow our Church to become a mere museum.

Surely no coincidence, an experience this past weekend gave me a glimpse of the young Church at prayer and heightened my excitement over the Synod. As occurs the first Friday of every month of the school year at 8 p.m., hundreds of young adults gathered this past Friday at The Saint Paul Seminary for Cor Jesu, an evening of praise and fellowship.

The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable as these young men and women, the overwhelming majority of them college age, came together to sing the Lord’s praises, adore the Lord in the Eucharist, and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. If you ever find yourself discouraged about the state of the Church, I invite you to put on your skinny jeans and sneak into Cor Jesu. We have been blessed in this archdiocese with so many incredibly generous young people; let’s be certain that we are doing all that we can to make sure that we will be handing on to them a Spirit-filled Church rather than a moth-balled museum. I look forward to seeing you at one of our Prayer and Listening Events.

Vamos a confiar en el Espíritu Santo para bendecir la escucha, el aprendizaje

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Category: Only Jesus