From the Synod – October 15, 2008

Each of the 253 bishops, 37 auditors and 11 fraternal delegates from other faiths who wanted to offer an intervention has now done so. While listening to all of the five-minute reflections has been a lengthy process, some clear themes have emerged for the next phase of the Synod’s work – the development of propositions to be voted on by the Synod Fathers.

As I reviewed my notes and reflections over the past week and a half, it seemed to me that some helpful recommendations have been made. While all these recommendations may not make it into the Post Synodal Exhortation that will be issued by Pope Benedict XVI, I think they will be helpful to us as we consider how to make the Word live in our Diocese.

Here are some of the themes and their associated recommendations and observations that I heard:

Interpretation of Scripture
• Call for an encyclical on the interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
• Call for more dialogue between theologians, exegetes, bishops and pastoral practitioners.
• Need to understand the role of the Magisterium, bishops who hold the apostolic tradition.
• Need for proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture, especially in the light of the challenge of fundamentalist sects.
• Need to distinguish between credible and non-credible sources.
• Need to be clear that teaching the Word needs the authority and guidance of the Church
• The Historical Critical approach to exegesis is important, but not sufficient: one needs a theological spiritual perspective as well in studying the Scriptures.
• Need to rediscover the spiritual sense of the Scriptures.
• The exegete is to be the servant of the Word, not the master.

Use of Technology
• Church needs to look at a greater, broader use of technology in communicating the Word.
• The Pope should do a blog.
• The Church should make better use of Internet to allow the Bible to be read even in countries where the Scriptures are forbidden.
• We are experiencing profound changes in communication, a revolution. There is a new culture of communication that the Church must not hesitate to enter.
• We need to develop more dialogic forms of communication in keeping with the age.
• Radio plays an important role in communicating the Scriptures, especially in poorer countries with greater illiteracy.

Use of Lectio Divina
• Should be a devotion practiced by all.
• Encourage families to participate in this method of learning and praying Scripture.
• Retreats should make use of Lectio Divina.
• Consider the seven-step Gospel sharing method to encounter Christ in the Word. Good way to get in contact with Jesus.
• Invite the Lord into your heart.
• Read a Gospel passage in a slow, prayerful way.
• Stay with text focusing on a word or phrase.
• Silence.
• Share the word or phrase that touched you.
• Ask what the Lord wants of you.
• Pray spontaneously.
• Encourage small Christian communities to use this method.
• Require Lectio Divina in the seminary.
• This method can be used by ecumenical groups as a way to experience intercommunion.

Consecrated Life
• Centrality of the Word in the renewal of Consecrated Life.

Study of Sacred Scripture
• Biblical formation is important for all.
• Need to form hearers of the Word, emphasize the importance of listening.
• Can be done in small Christian communities.
• Important to understand proper dispositions in hearing the Word.
• Inner silence.
• Humility of heart, heart of a child.
• Careful listening, silence.
• Hold summer schools on the Bible.
• Diminish people’s fear of the Bible; it is not just for experts and scholars.
• Parents play critical role in helping children learn the Bible.
• Study within the family.
• Fundamentalists know texts by heart; encouraging learning the Scriptures by heart can be especially effective for the illiterate or anyone who wants to become immersed in the Word.
• Saints read Sacred Scripture and were transformed.
• Need to venerate Sacred Scripture as the Body of Christ.
• Need to express gratitude to biblical exegetes for their important work and acknowledge the progress that has been made in biblical study.

Relationship with Jews and between Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament• Explore in what ways the Jewish people are present in the New Testament.
• What is the place of Jewish Scriptures in the New Testament?
• What is the status of the covenant with Israel made by God? It can never be abolished.
• We need greater respect and sensitivity for those who share the Word.
• Need to articulate the Christological reading of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Relationship between Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium
• It is important in the Catholic tradition not to obscure tradition or the importance of the Magisterium.
• We are not a religion of a “book,” but a religion of the Word, which includes Tradition.
• Magisterium permits proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

The Homily
• We need “missionary” preaching, not just moral encouragements.
• Church could establish a year of preaching to allow bishops, priests and deacons to focus on the improvement of preaching.
• Develop a homiletic directory; a directory on preaching.
• Homily is the primary place for the faithful to encounter the Word.
• Need for apostolic preaching; kerygmatic preaching.
• Homily could be more catechetical.
• Sunday Eucharist is the primary place of access to the Scriptures by the laity.
• Homilists need to spend more time preparing, meditating on the Word.
• Needs to be a greater emphasis on the life-transforming quality of preaching.
• Homily is the preeminent means of opening the Scriptures to the faithful.
• Ongoing formation of clergy could be helpful in improving homilies.
• Need more homiletic training in seminary along with biblical formation.
• Need more technical training in public speaking.
• Help priests deal with their insecurity of speaking about the Old Testament.
• Follow Christ’s homiletic style; more parables and stories.
• Appeal to the listener’s heart.
• Seminary should present Scripture not as an academic study but as “falling in love” with the Bible.
• Not just biblical knowledge, but biblical theology.
• Compendium on reading, interpreting, preaching and praying the Bible.
• Preacher needs compassionate heart, zeal, passion for the Word.
• Encourage creativity.

Greater Use of Imagery and Art in Proclaiming the Word
• Icons and art can be helpful especially for those who cannot read the Scriptures.
• Need to make more use of singing from the Word of God.
• Word not only found in Sacred Scripture. There are sparks found in all creation, history, and throughout life. God’s Word is all around us.
• Make more use of drama in communicating the Word.

The Poor
• God summons all of us to be poor.
• The poor have a profound closeness to God.
• We need to receive the Word humbly, like the poor of heart.
• Need to live out the Word in defense of human rights.

Ecumenism and Interfaith
• Greater cooperation for distribution and translations of the Bible.
• Word of God and Baptism join us together from different Christian faiths.
• One can find intercommunion in the Word that can foster unity.
• Need to continue to promote unity and full communion among all Christians.
• Would be a wonderful step to celebrate Easter on the same day.
• Unity of faith can be experienced by listening to the Word of God.
• Explore relationship with Muslims; seek reciprocity; this is an urgent need.
• What is God saying to us in our different holy books?

Obstacles to Accessing the Bible
• Illiteracy.
• Lack of translations, especially in languages spoken by small groups, cultures.
• People working so much, lack of time.
• Noisy world.
• Loss of biblical imagination: how can we bring back a biblical vocabulary and imagery?
• Preoccupation with sports.
• Lack of opportunity for Sunday Eucharist.
• Form a central institute for translations.

How to Create Better Access to the Bible
• Catholic Biblical Association.
• Need to have a Bible in every home.
• Form groups of professionals to read and study the Bible so that they will grow in understanding of the Word and bring it into their professions.
• Involvement of the Catholic Biblical Federation in improving resources.

Inerrancy of the Bible
• Clarify Dei Verbum, number 11.

Bishops and priests
• Reignite their desire to continue learning.
• Address their overwork.
• Need for priests to be convinced to see Sacred Scripture as the heart of faith.
• Need ardent preachers of the Word.
• Need to address shortage of priests.
• More ongoing formation for bishops and priests.
• They are primary teachers of the Word.
• First ones called to feed on the Word.

Roles of Lectors and Catechists
• Promote lay ministry of the Word.
• Have a formal ministry for the catechist or delegate of the Word.
• Improve preparation of catechists and readers of the Word.
• Have lectors practice in small groups.
• Encourage prayer by lectors before reading the Word.
• Give lectors more prestige.
• Educate and form groups that can bring the Word to others.
• Form agents of evangelization.
• Show greater gratitude to catechists for their important and essential work.

Youth
• They need to experience God’s personal love for them.
• Need opportunities to fall in love with Christ.
• Use Emmaus model, encounter with Word, walk together, life in common.
• Suggestions of Brother Alois from Taize on how to lead young in prayer of the Word.
• Develop groups of young adults who can bring others to Christ through peer-to-peer evangelization.
• Use sport images from Scriptures for youth.
• Remind the young that they have a special mission for Christ.

The Holy Spirit
• Develop a theology reflecting the Holy Spirit’s power reflected in the Word.

Parish
• Parish plays a great role in the service of the Word.
• Parish is the place for animating the Scriptures and catechism.
• Privileged place where people encounter Christ.
• Enhance the Sacrament of Penance as an opportunity to meet Christ.

I hope we can follow up in our Diocese on some of these important insights that came out during the Synod presentations.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Archbishop of Quebec and General Secretary for the Synod, today issued his official summary of the interventions. Drawing together what was voiced in the Aula (hall), it is an amazing work that will now be used as the guide for the propositions that will come forth from the small groups.

This evening, we had an opportunity to visit the new apartment of Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, who is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Archbishop Harvey was a most gracious host, and his guided tour included a rich history of this oldest part of the Papal Palace. Dating to15th century, this was residence of Nicholas V (1447-1455) and Julius II (1503-1513). Nicholas rebuilt the Vatican. In addition to carrying out a very aggressive foreign policy, Julius was an ambitious builder and patron of the arts.

It was amazing to think of the history that has happened in these rooms. If only the walls could talk!

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