At the Extraordinary Synod: Prayer Vigil, Homily, and Angelus
On Sunday, October 5, 2014, the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began. Their gathering will last for two weeks, until October 19, and is on the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” More information about the Synod can be found on the USCCB website here. The Vatican Synod page can be found here (in various languages).
On Saturday evening, October 4, 2014, a Vigil of Prayer was held in Saint Peter’s Square to pray for the 3rd Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
During the vigil, Pope Francis gave an address to those present, which included the Synodal Fathers. In this address, he reinforced the importance of the family: “The communion of life assumed by spouses, their openness to the gift of life, their mutual protection, the meeting and memory of the generations, the educational support, the transmission of the Christian faith to children … in all this the family continues to be the school of humanity without equal, indispensable contribution to a just and solidaristic society.”
Francis then turned his attention to the mission of the Synod and said that it must be “to seek again what the Lord asks of His Church today.” In order to do this, the Fathers must “lend an ear to the debates of this time and perceive the ‘odor’ of the people of today, to the point of being impregnated with their joys and hopes, their sadness and anguishes.”
Pope Francis called the Synodal Fathers then to prayer, and spoke about the necessary contents of this prayer: listening, willingness for a sincere discussion, and a gaze fixed on Christ. Of listening, he said, the Bishops need the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to listen to God until they “breathe the will to which God calls.” Of discussion, Francis asserted that the Bishops must discuss the “questions that this change of time bears with it” with a pastoral responsibility. The third necessary aspect, and what Francis calls “the decisive condition” of their prayer, is “a look”: maintaining their gaze fixed on Jesus Christ.
“If we assume His way of thinking, of living and of relating to others, we will not tire of translating the Synodal works into guidelines and courses for the pastoral on the person and on the family,” the Holy Father said.
Francis proclaimed that each time they turn to the source of the Christian experience, Christ, new ways and un-thought-of possibilities open. They must understand the words of Mary, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
Pope Francis closed his address by invoking the Holy Spirit:
May the wind of Pentecost blow on the Synodal works, on the Church, on the whole of humanity. May it loose the knots that impede persons from encountering one another, may it heal bleeding wounds, and rekindle hope. May it grant that creative charity that make us love as Jesus loved. Then our proclamation will rediscover the vivacity and dynamism of the first missionaries of the Gospel.
On Sunday, October 5, 2014, Pope Francis gave a homily during the Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope spoke about the opening of the Synod in light of the Gospel of the day. Sunday’s Gospel contained a parable about “the Lord’s Vineyard” (Mt 21:33-43). Francis said that the vineyard was God’s “dream” and that this dream was his people: “He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.” However, God’s dream was thwarted because the farmers, who he said are the leaders of the people, failed to do their jobs and instead thought only of their own interests out of pride and greed.
The Pope then related this Gospel passage to the Synod, saying that the Synod of Bishops is also called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. He cautioned the Bishops that they also must fight the temptation of pride and greed. He said: “We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings… We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.”
In closing, he said that in order for the Bishops to nurture and tend God’s vineyard, their hearts and minds “must be kept in Jesus Christ.”
At midday on Sunday, October 5, Pope Francis gave an Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square. Drawing again on the Gospel of the day, he reiterated the call of all pastors to work in the Lord’s vineyard by caring for the family, so that it may bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
He then spoke about how the family must be nourished by the Word of God. In a “happy coincidence” on this Sunday, Pauline brothers distributed Bibles around Rome. Pope Francis thanked them for their work and encouraged families to pray by reading the Scriptures:
So today, while the Synod on the Family opens, we can say with the help of the Paulines: a Bible in every family! A Bible in every family! […] We have one or two but they mustn’t be hidden, not put on a shelf, but to have one and take it in our hand, to read it often, every day, be it individually or together, husband and wife, parents and children, perhaps in the evening, especially on Sunday. Thus, the family grows, walks, with the light and strength of the Word of God!
In closing, Pope Francis asked for continued prayers for the Synod, especially those that invoke the maternal intercession of Mary.