Guide Our Feet in the Way of Peace: Synodality as Peacebuilding

Solemn Mass for the Opening of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Picture by Kascha Sanor, Young Adult Pilgrim.

This morning, I attended the synod’s closing Mass here in Rome, where I was reminded of the view from the opening Mass, which I attended with Discerning Deacons’ young adult pilgrims. Doves circled above St. Peter’s Basilica—a symbol of the Holy Spirit and of peace that has lingered with me throughout the month accompanying the synod in Rome. In this special, final issue of our October Synod Edition blog, we share the Italian text of the official synthesis report of the synod released yesterday, as well as an unofficial English translation from FutureChurch (it may take several days for the Vatican to release the official translation in English). We are also happy to share a special bonus reflection from synodal pilgrim Rhonda Miska on synodality as peacebuilding –below. The emphasis in the synod’s concluding document on the importance of the role women play in Catholic communities around the world gives me hope for the future of the Church. While in Rome, I also found hope in the young adults I traveled with—young women and men who believe in the promise of the synod as part of our collective journey toward being a better community and a Church that goes into the world to live Jesus’ mission and spread the good news. Moving forward, we are excited to continue to support the church’s discernment about women deacons. On another note, the Discerning Deacons team will be taking the next week off as we recharge from our busiest month to date, but I hope you’ll join us at one of the upcoming opportunities for our community to gather and reflect on the synod. –Anna

Last week when I was in Rome with Discerning Deacons, the prayerful, hopeful energy around synodality and the experience of the synodal assembly was palpable. One Synod delegate I spoke to called the assembly a “kairos moment,” and another told me that “the process is working!”

In addition, the heartfelt desire for peace, given the current violence in Israel and Gaza and in so many other places, was palpable. As I processed by candlelight praying the rosary through St. Peter’s Square with hundreds of other pilgrims on Saturday, October 14, we were invited to pray to Nostra Signora della Pace, Our Lady of Peace. At the papal audience on October 18, Pope Francis announced a day of prayer and fasting on October 27 and said that he urged believers “to take just one side in this conflict: that of peace.”

As I have been savoring the graces and reflecting on the days I spent as a synodal ambassador and pilgrim in Rome, I have realized that the hope stirred by the synodal journey and the heartfelt longing for peace are, in fact, fundamentally connected.

The Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), prayed daily by countless women and men around the world, includes the supplication, “guide our feet in the way of peace.” And the Adsumus prayer, well-known to many of us by now, implores the Holy Spirit to, “teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.”

As we, the People of God, make a shared synodal path, we have sought to embrace deep listening, bold speaking, shared silence, trust in the Holy Spirit, and a desire for communion. These are disciplines synodal delegates have taken on these weeks. And they are not just synodal disciplines but also peacebuilding practices that “guide our feet in the way of peace,” and illuminate the “way we must go.”

We all know that we are immersed in a toxic, oversaturated, polarized media world of oversimplified soundbites, sensationalized headlines, reductionistic tweets, and misleading clickbait. There is too much outrage and not enough silence. There are too many assumptions and not enough humility. There is too much righteous indignation and not enough curiosity. There is too much reactivity and not enough spacious generosity.

Earlier this week, a dear friend who is a Jewish faith leader lamented to me that discourse around the current violence in the Holy Land lacks nuance and minimizes the incredible complexity of the conflict. As I listened to her fear, hurt, and frustration, my heart was moved. I thought of the photos I have seen of hundreds of delegates from around the globe seated at round tables sharing facilitated spiritual conversations as well as the conversations our Discerning Deacons team facilitated among university students and shared among ourselves. These conversations create the kind of space my Jewish friend was longing for. They strengthen our muscles for relationships across differences.

Our world is in desperate need of the countercultural example of synodality that is “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) to a fractured world. Synodal practices, modeled by delegates sharing in spiritual conversation in the synod hall and in listening sessions held throughout the world, encourage mutual listening and making room for the other.

In the words of the letter from the synod assembly released on Wednesday, “The Church’s vocation is to proclaim the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loved the world.” This echoes the vision of Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, that the church is to be a leaven (GS #40).

Pope Francis has called for Christians to be “artisans of peace.” This call is intrinsically related to Pope Francis’ challenge to become a listening church and embrace “this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.” As we walk the synodal path as the People of God, we are salt, light, and leaven for a world in need. 

Firme, adelante!

Rhonda Miska is a preacher, writer, lay ecclesial minister, and spiritual director based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN area. She holds an MA in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and is a graduate of Diocese of Richmond, VA Spiritual Direction Institute (2007). From 2016-2020, Rhonda was in formation with the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), during which time she studied at the Aquinas Institute and was part of a community of women who claim and practice the preaching charism. In 2021, she founded the Catholic Women’s Preaching Circle, a space for women passionate about preaching to build peer community, practice preaching, and give and receive feedback. Rhonda has been active with Discerning Deacons since its earliest days.

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“Our St. Phoebe Day celebration was a Catholic mass at its best—coming together, unified at the Eucharistic table, getting nourished through meaningful ritual, prayerful and relevant songs, a challenging message on synodality from scripture, and engaging and honest testimonies from two women in our community. St. Joan of Arc parish today did what Jesus did years ago—fed souls and gave people hope.”
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community
Minneapolis, MN
“Together, we are grateful that the ministry and example of St. Phoebe enlivens our community to participate in exploring the unique gifts of women in our faith community. Here at Cranaleith, we feel strongly about creating space for all those seeking wholeness and transformation for themselves, their communities and society. This retreat was an opportunity for us to do just that.”
Cranaleith Spiritual Center
Philadelphia, PA
“The icon of St. Phoebe is still present in our Chapel today, where we are able to remember her witness and ask her to intercede on our behalf.”
Rosemont College
Rosemont, PA

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