Saturday morning, Franfurt airport, en route for Rome
Tomorrow sees the beginning of the third extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops. I will be participating as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of 114 presidents of national conferences called to this assembly. With us will be the heads of Oriental Catholic Churches, leaders of the dicasteries that form the Roman Curia, delegates personally named by Pope Francis, observers, experts and oecumenical delegates: more than 200 participants, if I'm not mistaken.
You already know the theme: 'The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization'. There's been a lot of talk about it since last November when the Secretariat of the Synod sent a questionnaire about these challenges to the episcopal conferences of the world, inviting the bishops to proceed with a broad consultation. Need I remind you that this Synod will only be preparing the material for the general Synod which will be held next year on the same theme?
I had the honour of participating in a Synod once before in 2005. This was the Synod on the Eucharist as source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It had been called by John Paul II, but was presided by Benedict XVI. I must admit I was not bombarded then as I have been these past weeks with letters, emails, books and articles, request for interviews and more advice than I could imagine. This is obviously a sign of the interest that has been raised by the theme as well as the expectations that seem to attend anything to do with Pope Francis. It also reflects the seriousness of the issues that will be discussed. I think this is healthy for our Church. Such an exchange of views can only deepen our reflection and better guide our action as we accompany today's families.
As I sit in front of this large window gazing at the reflections of the rising sun in the the portholes of the many planes that grace the airport here in Frankfurt, I'm trying to articulate what I'm feeling in the present moment. To be quite honest, I feel a bit overwhelmed. First of all, by the responsibility which is mine as a diocesan bishop, a responsibility I try my best to fulfill in a diocese that, like so many others, is seeking to find the way of the Gospel in the modernity that surrounds us. This past week, I found myself trying to extinguish many small fires: a discouragement here, a disappointment there, one's frustrations, another's misunderstandings. I can't seem to keep up with my correspondence or my emails. And to top it all off, I friend of mine is close to death. She's too young, much too young...
I'm reading many very serous studies, theological and pastoral reflections concerning the subjects we'll be discussing at the Synod, and I feel like I'd need a sabbatical year just to get a better grasp of the theology of marriage, of the ministry of reconciliation, of ecclesiastical procedural law and of spirituality. There's so much to learn.
Yes, I feel overwhelmed... and quite small. Who am I to speak on behalf of the Bishops of Canada in this august assembly, when we've had so little time to listen to each other on these most important topics? My own experience is so limited, my point of view so partial...
However, someone had to be here, someone has to speak up and engage the conversation. As it did for Saint Matthias, the lot fell upon me. So I have to seriously set myself to seeking God's will for me, in prayer, in humility and in listening. And for this, I'm counting on you, dear readers: please accompany me, accompany all of us in your daily prayers during the next two weeks. Let us pray for one another so that the whole People of God might take up this moment to reflect on our families, on the families that surround us, on all the families of the world. May we be able to take up together the challenges that are ours 'in the context of evangelisation'.