Insights into what is happening in the Church
Recent trips to Europe – one as head of group of pilgrims, another as a member of the Council for the Synod for Africa and then for the ordinary Synod – give one an insight into what is happening in the Church at different levels.
Mass in the Crypt of Sacre Coeur in Paris was our first exposure to the level of devotional faith and practice. In itself, Sacre Coeur is an inspiration; celebrating Mass there in a place so full of history was a wonderful experience. The sacristan invited us to renew our Catholic Faith by reciting the Creed and the Prayer for the Year of Faith, before proceeding through the Door of Faith, specially erected in the Basilica for the Year of Faith.
Then came the long train journey from Paris to Lourdes. The lasting impression of Lourdes is its tranquility, its peace and quiet, even though there were thousands of people milling around.
Another impressive feature was the love and care shown by volunteer nurses and care-givers to the elderly and sickly. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way for young people to spend a ‘gap year’?
Rome had its highlights too. Having witnessed what an impact the inspiration, vision, lifestyle and teachings of Pope Francis is having on people worldwide, but especially in Rome, where an ‘ordinary’ Wednesday audience is bringing together numbers that used to attend only very special occasions, it was great having the Pope with us for a whole afternoon the first day and the whole morning the next.
Typically, he spent all but a few minutes listening intently to everything that was said. When he did speak, it was to give more specific direction or to point out something that should not be overlooked.
The theme for the extraordinary Synod in 2014 is ‘The pastoral challenges facing the family in this age of evangelisation’ and the ordinary Synod in 2015, ‘Jesus Christ reveals the ministry and vocation of the human person and the family’.
Clearly for Pope Francis, the Human Person and the Family are keys to unlocking the church’s mission to evangelise and bring people everywhere into communion with Jesus and with each other.