Listen to the Communion of Saints

Published November 3, 2022

The Catholic Thing

This week’s twin celebrations – All Saints and All Souls – provide an occasion to step back from our current circumstances in the Church and the world, and to view things against a broader horizon.

More than a distant constellation of moral exemplars, more than even a host of intercessors pleading for us before the Throne of Grace, the Communion of Saints is what awaits each one of us whose salvation has been won through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The glorious diversity of saints is perfected in, even as it reflects, the splendor of the Triune God in whose life they now share in full.

If beatitude is what we were made for, our ultimate destination and goal, the commemoration of All Souls is a reminder that the way is narrow. The souls in Purgatory will go to Heaven. But even as we pray for their purification and speedy welcome into beatitude, we cannot but be reminded of the urgent need for repentance and conversion in our own lives.

And that brings us to where the rest of us are, this pilgrim Church on earth. And down here, we’re a bit of a mess.

The Church is mired in another of her periodic bouts of self-reflection, which often seem more like navel-gazing than an examination of conscience – in recent months and years, particularly around the Synod on Synodality.

Rome seems prepared to declare the Synod a resounding success even before it has begun in earnest – despite serious concerns about participation and a disconcerting naivete – to put it charitably – regarding some fundamental matters of the faith. (Fr. Murray’s take-down of the Continental Stage Document details many of these concerns.)

The Synod document aside, it remains disconcerting that very few Catholics still seem to understand what “synodality” means or this Synod is intended to accomplish. And it’s even more disconcerting that almost everyone involved with the Synod seems eager to breeze past this inconvenient fact.

By virtue of our baptism, we all share in the mission of the Church. Each of us participates in this mission according to our particular vocation and circumstances. The hierarchical nature of the Church and ecclesial authority serves, rather than contradicts, this shared mission. There is no part of the People of God to whom this missionary imperative does not extend.

This is, in brief, the vision of the Church laid out by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, and everywhere the Church is flourishing, this reality can be found in action. If that is what synodality means, I’m all for it.

But if that’s what synodality means, it’s certainly not how the Synod has been “marketed” and “sold.”

Stephen P. White is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. White’s work focuses on the application of Catholic social teaching to a broad spectrum of contemporary political and cultural issues. He is the author of Red, White, Blue, and Catholic (Liguori Publications, 2016).

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