Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 15 October 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Reflection for 15 October 2021. The Synod
This first paragraph might seem a bit technical but it will resolve itself in the end. In my reflection dated 17 September 2021 I made reference to a self sufficient Church. This is what I penned: “In 2013 prior to becoming Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio SJ referred to the serious sin of self referentiality and called it a “theological narcissism”. Self referentiality is a technical term referring to an extreme form of independence which screams out that we need nobody and that no one can teach us anything”. In his subsequent utterances the Pope condemned the tendencies toward self referentiality which leads to “spiritual sickness”. Did Pope Francis generate this term? No it is part of his Jesuit heritage. The term was used by Henri de Lubac SJ – one of those gifted persons who enlightened the mind of the Church in preparation for the Second Vatican Council. De Lubac had recourse to the thinking of the Apostolic Fathers who spoke of the “mysterium lunae” – literally, “the mystery of the moon”. This refers to the fact that the Church has no light of her own but reflects only the light of Christ. The Apostolic Fathers used the analogy of the Sun and the Moon to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the Church.
There are two modes of being Church. One is a highly organised group of people who work out their plans and expect the Church authority to put a stamp of approval on it. This is a Church to whom dialogue is foreign and at times even unnecessary. It is efficiency oriented and wants to get things done. Another type of Church is a group of struggling people who gather around the Cross and try to work out their future from that perspective. Because the Cross symbolises struggle, pain and the victimising of the innocent; many try to bypass it. But if as Pope Francis says that the Church is a “field hospital for the wounded” then we will have to adopt more of the second mode and learn to listen and to dialogue. We will have to listen to the struggling people symbolised by the struggles represented by the Cross, and from there work out what is the next right step.
Some years ago I was Parish Priest at a place which had many outstations around the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. The place was extremely cold in the winter. A well placed parish in Durban made an annual donation of blankets to one of the outstations. I once received a call from the person in charge of the project asking me to make arrangements to fetch and distribute the blankets. I thanked the person and while chatting suggested that it will be good if he and his friends could meet the people who benefitted from their kindness. He readily accepted the invitation and a few days later came up in a few vehicles. We went to the place and was welcomed by the poor people of that area who set out for their guests many delightful things to eat and to drink. They gave the best they could give. The guests stayed longer than planned but were deeply moved by the exchange and from getting to know and to see how other people lived in their rural settings. That friendship and exchange continued for many years.
In his address over the weekend the Holy Father cautioned against not being open to new ways of doing things: “‘We have always done it this way’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression – ‘We have always done it that way’ – is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems. A patch of rough cloth that ends up creating a worse tear (cf. Matthew 9:16). It is important that the synodal process be exactly this: a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.”
Consequently the first phase in the Synodal process is the listening phase. It runs from 17th October 2021 when the Synod will be launched in the Archdiocese until April 2022. At this time we ask all Parish Priests/Administrators, Religious Superiors, Lay leaders, and Institutions to facilitate “a listening”. Guidelines have been developed and these have been sent to the various constituencies in the Archdiocese.
I wish you well as we embark on this special journey together.
Let us pray:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.
Bishop S. David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town