A Shepherd's Message - October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015

I am writing this column from Rome. The Synod of Bishops began on Sunday, October 4, with an Opening Mass in which all the Synod participants concelebrated with the Holy Father. The Readings for the Sunday Mass were beautifully apt for the occasion, a Synod on the Family and its challenges today and its role in Evangelization, i.e. making the Gospel known and loved in the world.

The First Reading from Chapter 2 of the Book of Genesis proclaimed that it was “not good for the man to be alone.” The creation of woman, “bone from my bone…,” is followed by the declaration of the sacred inspired author:”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” The Gospel passage from St. Mark refers to this text and remembers Jesus words: “What God has joined together man must not put asunder.”

Pope Francis spoke of the relevance of these passages even today and the sources of loneliness that challenge the beauty and comprehensiveness of the Sacrament of Marriage and family life. He spoke anew of our throwaway culture and the call of disciples to stand fresh in the reality of God’s loving plan and His mercy.

We have much work ahead of us in the Synod, many questions and debates. We are not a legislature making laws but a body of bishops, assisted by delegates and married couples, deliberating over recommendations to make to the Holy Father who will be present at many sessions and he will use our recommendations for his own decisions and writings.

We will meet frequently in language groups to discuss the issues raised in a document that serves as a kind of “agenda” for our meetings. This “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, was formed from information gathered from bishops, priests and people who answered a long consultation questionnaire. (We had a decent response from the people in Galveston-Houston.) The document outlines, in three sections, the issues and some ways of approach.

I have found the working document very uneven in quality. Therefore, I plan to make my own interventions about the positive impact the family has on our culture in the Catholic community despite the fact that families face great obstacles in our country’s culture, one of which among us is the effect of immigration and separation of families because of the inadequacies of our laws. Another obstacle is the too frequent co-habitation of couples without the benefit and grace of the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Synod needs to hold up the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and family, the essential grace that comes through Jesus Christ for the life of each family member and the need for ongoing accompaniment of families, especially young families, by the Church. There are, to be sure, “hot button” issues that the media will emphasize, but I ask our people to be slow in accepting media stories that only want to highlight controversy and their own view of “progressive” versus “conservative.”

There is a great and rich texture to Catholic life and the living out of marriage through the world. This morning before Mass I spoke with a Cardinal from New Zealand about the issues his Catholic minority faces, and a little later I spoke with the Cardinal Archbishop from Sao Paolo, Brazil, about the extraordinary challenges his flock of 10 million faces! This morning we were all one in the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus and I pray that the Holy Spirit will be most active in and among us in the next few weeks.

The Holy Father’s pilgrimage to the United States was spectacular. I managed to speak to him briefly three times; he was moved and delighted by the response to his journey, his words and his actions to emphasize the importance of Christ to the world of America. I personally found his address before the Joint Session of Congress to be truly engaging and remarkable.

The Pope canonized St. Junipero Serra so a word of praise goes to all our Serra Clubs in the Archdiocese who work and pray for Vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. One of our own seminarians studying in Rome, Rev. Clark Sample, was ordained a deacon this past Thursday and this occasion brought a large number of his family, friends and parishioners from St. Michael’s in Houston to the Eternal City. I was pleased to meet many of them over the weekend. It was great to hear a Texan accent in ancient Roma!

I ask you to please pray for the success of the Synod. †