One expressed aim of this Synod is “to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be.” (Vatican Handbook 1.3).
As the path along which God’s People walk together, synodality grew out of an understanding of Jesus ‘the Way’ (Jn 14:6) and of his disciples as ‘followers of the Way’ (Ac 9:2).
When the Apostles felt their ministry was tipping in the wrong direction, the Spirit moved them to create the diaconate (Ac 6). This is the first indication that what came to be known as the Sacrament of Holy Orders enjoys a secret sauce not tasted in the other Sacraments — elasticity. Can it continue to stretch? Signs abound that the future will look back upon our current crisis as an historic growth spurt.
The Apostles of today need to breathe deep, listen, and expand the Church. Their authority is not about maintaining a status quo; it’s creative. It’s also protective, not like fencing around a corral but like guardrails on an open road—the Way.
Suggestion, to dream boldly, ponder a possibility: “we’ve only just begun.”
Evolution is mobilized around fixed points, often not the ones we think. Evolution moves around carbon. Holy Orders moves around charity, namely God’s definitive gift of self. All the Sacraments have evolved, but Holy Orders is the only one that boasts of degrees of participation. Only three? Is the Church done evolving — especially regarding new ministries for women?
Important as it is to defend the tradition of the Church, we cannot lose sight of the possibility that the Church may still be young. New cosmologies deriving from physics and biology permit us to look at our institutions as incredibly recent newborns on the scene.
Discerning Deacons has set the stage for us to dream big. Like young folks on the cusp of life, we’re “watching for signs along the way” (Carpenters).
How differently we dream when we see God’s self-giving against deep time. “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a Way….” (Is 43:19).
Fr. Michael Hickin