A spiritual retreat in preparation for the xvi Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began on Saturday evening, 30 September and concluded after dinner on Tuesday, 3 October. The spiritual retreat included Holy Mass, moments of community and personal prayer, moments of silence, and reflections offered by Mother Ignazia Angelini and Father Timothy Radcliffe, op. The latter gave six meditations, each with a specific focus aimed at preparing participants for the Synod.
In his first meditation, “Hoping against hope”, Fr Radcliffe urged participants to ask God to free their hearts from fear. “For some”, he said, “this is the fear of change and for others the fear that nothing will change”. He also affirmed that “if we listen to the Lord and to each other, seeking to understand his will for the Church and the world, we shall be united in a hope that transcends our disagreements”.
In the second mediation, “At home in God and God at home in us”, Fr Radcliffe said that “God has made himself at home in us with all our scandalous limitations for ever” and that God remains in our Church, despite all the corruption and abuse. “We need the Church, our present home for all its weaknesses, but also to breathe the Spirit-filled oxygen of our future home without boundaries”, he added.
The third meditation focused on friendship. Fr Radcliffe explained that “this Synod will be fruitful if it leads us into a deeper friendship with the Lord and with each other”. He affirmed that “the bravest thing we can do in this Synod is to be truthful about our doubts and questions with each other, the questions to which we have no clear answers. Then”, he added, “we shall draw near as fellow searchers, beggars for the truth”.
In his fourth meditation Fr Radcliffe reflected on the disciples’ conversation with Jesus on their way to Emmaus, and the importance of listening. He encouraged participants to be open to the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints present at the Synod, and not to be afraid of new friendships and authentic conversations which can lead to conversion.
The fifth meditation was on authority. “There can be no fruitful conversation between us unless we recognise that each of us speaks with authority”, having been “baptised into Christ”. Fr Radcliffe noted, however, that “without joy, none of us has any authority at all”. This joy, he explained, “flows from three sources: beauty, goodness and truth”.
The sixth and final meditation focused on the Spirit of truth. “If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit of truth”, Fr Radcliffe said, “we shall doubtless argue. It will sometimes be painful. There will be truths we would rather not face. But we shall be led a little deeper into the mystery of divine love and we shall know such joy that people will be envious of us for being here, and will long to attend the next session of the Synod!”.