From the Directors' Desk:

Many people have asked me how I fared in Rome…was it all worth it? After complaining testily that I don’t like pasta and I find irritating the teeming hordes of tourists in a city some irreverently label “Catholic Disneyland,” I finally admit that yes, it was worth it. And then some.

Despite the unprecedented success of our work to raise awareness about the invisibility of women’s biblical leadership, our “women’s work” was just one small (albeit significant) part of a very big discussion. (I sought to do justice to the breadth of the synod in reports available on the FutureChurch website).

One event that touched me greatly was the palpable energy displayed by so many bishops over Lectio Divina. An ancient practice rooted in monasticism, Lectio involves reading a Scripture passage, meditating upon and “mining” it for understanding, and then engaging in conversation with God with a view to conversion and action in one’s personal life. Bishop Silva Retamales of Chile called Lectio a way to “learn the heart of God through the words of God.”

Another name for Lectio might be Prayer 101. Virtually all members of religious orders and most graduates of U.S. Catholic high schools, colleges and universities have learned Lectio as an excellent way to make biblical passages part of one’s inner life and a source of strength and conversion for mission.

So, it was a surprise to me when I learned that this powerful method of prayer was so unfamiliar to synod bishops that they asked for extra time one morning so they could learn how to do it.

No wonder things get so tangled up in the Church. I can’t get through my day without regular prayer based on Scripture reading. How can our leaders possibly lead without this sort of nourishment?

Canada’s Archbishop Prendergast told Catholic News Service that his French-speaking language group had decided to begin their sessions with 30 minutes of Lectio and sharing what it means to each. Said Prendergast: It was a very interesting experience for me. Bishops find themselves listening to the Word of God and called to conversion... One bishop actually said he might have to change how he relates to some aspects of his ministry.

I wondered how often our bishops have the opportunity to share Scripture with one another and find support for what has to be, in many respects, an arduous and thankless job. My heart was moved with pity and I prayed for them to find that abundant nourishment that sustains through the roughest of times.

So it is that Rome never ceases to surprise me. I can’t help loving St. Peter’s (even though it was built with all that indulgence money) and even (horrors) the Catholic schlock so prominently displayed everywhere. Maybe it is because the Spirit always seems to burrow her way down into the very depths of us, leading us out of our Catholic sinfulness, or at least out of our slough of despond.

And Rome, of course, is the quintessential monument to both Catholic holiness and Catholic sinfulness writ large (in marble!) for everyone to see.

Of all the multiple goods that emerge from the synod, the greatest could well be the commitment of our bishops to “learn the heart of God through the words of God.” Maybe we will soon be able write a new, more positive chapter in the long history of the Spirit’s faithfulness to our Catholic journey into the heart of God.


Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2008


Archive of Past Articles