North Warrandyte, where I live, is an edgy kind of place right on the edge of metropolitan Melbourne. Australia Post and the Nillumbik Council don’t like our bumpy street , so once a week we half dozen home-owners trundle our correctly coloured bins down to the corner and, when we remember, pick up mail from the row of letter boxes on the same corner. Living here suits me, thanks in part to the internet that opens me out to the world beyond this little valley.
Monday to Friday the Cath News website keeps me in touch with my catholicity and that’s the place I began to notice a word that was new to me- synodal. It constantly popped up in churchy words from Bishops and lay people, accompanied by invitations to participate In zoom sessions about synodality. To quote Pope Francis, synodality is “an invitation to all Catholics to be united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”
If there is to be synodality, then our religious faith needs to be adult, something we own, not a long ago ritual in which we had no say. The mix of childhood memories, ideas, beliefs, devotions, church-words and beliefs peculiar to different times and places that we inherited, needs to be sifted for truth and relevance in the everydayness of our adult lives.
Adult faith is not an affirmation of a creed, an intellectual acceptance of God, or believing certain doctrines to be true or orthodox, although those things might well be good. It means moving to the deepest part of oneself, the place where we are most ourselves and where we can safely acknowledge our fears, our addictions, our insecurities, our memories, as we grapple with the mystery we call God.
Faith cannot be lived in isolation from who and where we are. That’s where the basics of faith lie hidden and that’s especially true for women, who are more inclined to embody faith than males who have been mostly responsible for distorting it into an exacting and negative rule book. Core beliefs, like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, sin and forgiveness and prayer are givens, but some customs and traditions that have grown out of those doctrines really miss the point.
As my faith has unfolded from the institutional approach taught and caught in my family and school , and on through what has been a smorgasbord of faith experiences, I’ve discovered that the creedal basics of my childhood religious faith haven’t changed. How I experience and live them has. Today, if I was asked about my religious beliefs, it would go something like this.
I believe that God is the name we give to the mysteries in which we live–mysteries like LOVE that is always there, somewhere, if I look closely enough, in the mystery of LIFE that keeps on renewing itself, showing me God’s face in the majesty of rolling surf, the peace of early morning mist playing hide and seek with the trees, the joy in the faces of children at play in the most unlikely of places. God is in somewhere in the fleeting memory of the one-on-one closeness of my new-born self and my mother that is imprinted in me, an all-is-well feeling that I sometimes experience.
I believe that Jesus is God-made-man. By today’s measure he lived a very short life before being executed by a foreign power with the connivance of the Jewish religious authorities, and then regained life- and that’s another mystery. I believe Jesus left us the blueprint for a life that had one, all-encompassing message: Love one another.
Just this month, Jessie Rogers an Irish biblical scholar speaking about synodality, said that if catholics “hold on too tightly to how God acted in the past, they might overlook the new thing that God is doing in the present”.
It seems to me I’ve been on an edge for a long time, waiting for the Catholic Church to begin its return to its roots, respect listening and cherish diversity. It’s called synodality.