will all voices be heard at the synod on the family?

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Despite questionnaires and invited auditors, the upcoming synod on the family is still a synod of bishops. Is there any hope that the voices of families will be heard? Is there any hope that the voices of women will be heard when only a handful of handpicked women will be present?  READ MORE…

After a (too) long absence, here’s an article that I wrote for this week’s issue of the Prairie Messenger.

family life and prayer support

From the Prairie Messenger:

Meditator, yoga instructor and missionary Elaine Zakreski is passionate about sharing the peace of Christ with others.

As a student of the Living School, a two-year course of study through Richard Rohr’s centre for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico, Zakreski is embarking on an experiment linking women in Saskatoon to women in Malawi, Africa through meditation and prayer.

via Malawi-Ursuline prayer connection established.

Much about the two Synods on the Family has focused on what the church can do to better support families. By “the church”, we too often refer to the institution – parishes, dioceses, episcopal conferences, and the Vatican. But, what can WE do as individuals and communities?

A community of elder Ursuline Sisters in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan are simply connecting with elder women in Malawi through prayer and meditation. The “Go-Go Grandmothers” of Malawi have taken on the responsibility of raising their orphaned grand-children while struggling with the economic and health challenges of aging. (Note to the Synod fathers: This is family love and commitment in its highest form.)

Can the knowledge that you are being prayed for take away all your problems? Probably not. But, knowing that you are being held in loving prayer can give you the courage to face the daily struggles. Being connected personally, having your name raised to the heavens in union with all the saints, is a generous act of love and support.

In the last year, in the midst of our own family struggles, my own prayer often fell to the wayside. It was at this time that the prayers were lovingly picked up and raised up for me – for us – by my dear friends, the women of the Our Lady of the Round Table online faith community. The act of being remembered in my silent absence was a powerful reminder that we were not travelling this journey alone.

Some like to describe the core of our faith in terms of dogmas and beliefs. We have certainly had an earful of doctrinal pronouncements regarding this synod and family life. What if we changed gears and looked to the power of prayer? Not just liturgical prayer, and worries about who attends mass and who doesn’t, but intentional, personal and communal, prayers of presence, awareness and mutual support?

(Note: Elaine Zakreski and her husband, Peter, do more then pray for the women in Malawi. They are the founders of the Hope for Malawi Foundation Inc. and have travelled extensively to Malawi and helped with various community projects.Awareness leading to prayer leading to action.)

Fr. Richard McBrien, theologian and church expert, dies at 78 | National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Richard McBrien, who as a scholar brought distinction to a university theology department and who as an author and often-interviewed popular expert explained the Catholic church to the wider world, died early Sunday morning. He was 78.

via Fr. Richard McBrien, theologian and church expert, dies at 78 | National Catholic Reporter.

Here on the Canadian prairies,  the Prairie Messenger has long been our source for Catholic news. The weekly newspaper provides us with local, national and international coverage of current affairs in both the world and the church. It is also a rich depository of varied voices in its columns. Over the years, writers like Fr. Andrew Greeley, Sr. Joan Chittister, Eugene Kennedy and Fr. Richard McBrien challenged readers to embrace the church with an adult faith. This required going beyond an unquestioning obedience or turning a blind eye to the human weaknesses of the institutional church. It meant bringing issues of faith and practice out into the open for honest dialogue and discussion.

As we moved further and further away from Vatican II, in years and in practice, ecclesial censorship attempted to silence these voices. The NCR article above describes Fr. McBrien’s experiences with this censorship. One writer on the NCR discussion boards mused that censorship often comes from a mere 1% of the church’s population; the high and mighty who are more concerned about wielding power in the name of purity than promoting a healthy dialogue.

Sadly, NCR had to close the article’s comment board because of vicious and disrespectful attacks by some more traditional minded posters. The irony of these trolling heresy hunters calling themselves faithful Catholics and good Christians continues to amaze and sadden me.

Luckily for us, the Prairie Messenger never stopped publishing Fr. McBrien’s articles. The first time my simple column shared a page with this giant of a writer I was thrilled, honoured and humbled. Fr. Richard McBrien’s love of Catholicism while presenting thoughtful criticism is a model and inspiration for me and, I’m sure, for many progressive Catholics.

May he rest in eternal peace and joy.