We now have an opportunity to explore our diocesan needs through a synod at a time when our nation is conducting a Plenary Council.
It is synchronous that before Mary MacKillop’s canonisation, now 11 years ago, Australia recognised August 8 as the feast day of St Dominic de Guzman, the founder of the Dominican order whose motto “Veritas”, which means truth.
As we journey towards the second session of synod in May 2021, we can focus on these two concepts – what is our truth, and what are our needs and what can we do about them?
Active and contemplative life for many theologians, religious and lay people has been the subject of debate for centuries. Thomas Aquinas engages in a disputation in his Summa Theologiae on the active life in comparison with the contemplative life and tries to determine which is of greater value. Which of them has greater merit? Does the active life hinder the contemplative life? Does the active life precede the contemplative? Both points of view would concur that active and contemplative forms of encounter with God are equally important and needed.
Before we act, we need to think, reflect and contemplate. Deep listening within ourselves, with others and with our God not only enhances and encourages strong relationships, it reveals truth and uncovers needs.
This year during Lent we are being provided with the opportunity to stop, be still, and listen through contemplative dialogue as we break open the synod’s theme of Building the Kingdom of God Together. Each week during Lent, individuals and groups, delegates and observers, will focus on one of our diocesan five foundations of Identity and Community, Worship and Prayer, Formation and Education, Mission and Outreach, and Leadership and Structure.
The resources that form part of the experience engage the Catholic imagination and invite everyone, as Pope Francis states in Evangelii Gaudium, to a “renewed personal encounter with Christ, or an openness to letting God encounter you. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, no one is excluded from the Lord’s Joy.”
The Catholic imagination provides the means to encounter and be in a relationship with God who cannot be experienced logically but rather in the context of mystery that invites us to deep reflection.
The process each week is to engage in contemplative dialogue through focusing on scripture, visual liturgy, our story, foundational statements, and concerns and recommendations.
The type of dialogue is a contemplative way of being together; a way of engaging in meaningful conversations that are rooted in deep listening. There are key questions. What resonates with you? What challenges you? What is the invitation to you personally and for your local Church community? These will be contemplated and explored through engagement with the resources and each other.
Contemplative dialogue leads to a shared understanding, as people with unique gifts, points of view and values grow in capacity and willingness to think creatively together. The practice of contemplative dialogue supports building a shared approach that is effective, practical, and better allows us to bring our best selves together and to participate in cultivating a creative common ground.
We listen from an inner silence that creates a space where something new can emerge. Our intention is to move beyond the personal as we probe significant ideas together and listen deeply for truth in another’s point of view. Contemplative dialogue is a means of readying the ground for collective transformation, for helping shift from I to we, from individualism to communion.
It is through contemplative dialogue that we can translate our thinking and our feeling into language that creates a flow of coherence and shared meaning among us. The challenge of dialogue is to simply allow numerous points of view to be heard; it is about listening to your own thinking in the silence and to others’ thinking when they are speaking.
As the Diocese prepares for the second session of synod, we as church are invited into a unique space that will only be experienced once, or for some, twice in a lifetime. This is a time in which we are encouraged to engage in our Christian story, and break open our current concerns around truth and our needs. Action will derive from contemplation and enable our Diocese to Build the Kingdom of God Together.