Timothy Radcliffe, OP is a Roman Catholic priest and Dominican friar of the English Province and was the former Master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001. I had the wonderful opportunity of spending some time with Father Timothy in 2017 at a Dominican Education Conference in Melbourne. It quickly became apparent that Radcliffe is “a man distinguished both for eloquence and for wit, a master theologian who has never disregarded ordinary people, a practical man who believes that religion and the teachings of theology must be constantly applied to the conduct of public life.” Cited by Chancellor, the Right Honorable Christopher Patten, when Radcliffe was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity through Oxford in 2003.
Our Diocese was blessed in the lead-up to our second session of Synod on discernment in 2021, to have Father Timothy discuss how we can touch the imagination of our contemporaries with our faith. He recalls visiting our beautiful region in the 1980’s and the magnificent wine from Brokenwood vineyards. He is personable, relatable and synodal in word and action. He is a master of making connections with people and places to assist us in understanding the living God. You may like to revisit his contribution to our diocese at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ4wHKnUPKw
2021 was the same year that Timothy was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw, and we prayed for his recovery, to which he did, and this year he accompanied Father Lukasz Popko, another Dominican in publishing Questioning God. The format of this literature is a conversation between the two, who turn the tables on the idea that the relationship between God and humanity is as one of passive submission and thus unquestioning. Insights into these transformative conversations are helpful as the Church questions how to be faithful to God in this uncertain time.
In the lead up to the Synod on Synodality Pope Francis called on Timothy Radcliffe to run a three-day retreat ahead of the opening at the Vatican on Oct 4 for the 300 plus delegates.
Father Timothy reflects:
“To guide us during this retreat, we shall meditate on the Transfiguration. This is the retreat Jesus gives to his closest disciples before they embark on the first synod in the life of the Church, when they walk together (syn-hodos) to Jerusalem. This retreat was needed because they were afraid of this journey they must make together. This retreat gives them the courage and hope to set off on their journey. It does not always go well. They immediately fail to free the young lad from the evil spirit. They quarrel about who is the greatest. They misunderstand the Lord. But they are on their way with a fragile hope.”
“So, we too prepare for our synod by going on retreat where, like the disciples, we learn to listen to the Lord. When we set off in three days’ time, we shall often be like those disciples, and misunderstand each other and even quarrel. But the Lord will lead us onwards towards the death and resurrection of the Church. Let us ask the Lord to give us hope too: the hope that this synod will lead to a renewal of the Church and not division; the hope that we shall draw closer to each other as brothers and sisters.”
Over days leading up the official opening, Father Timothy spoke about themes in his meditations around hope, friendship, authority, difficulties and tension points in the Church, beauty, goodness, the need to listen to each other and the spirit of truth. Woven into each of the meditations was the Transfiguration and real-life examples of real people in real situations. This assists us to consider how we are being synodal through living in communion, living with a participatory and mission focus.
For more information on the Synod on Synodality and Father Timothy’s meditations go to: https://www.synod.va/en/highlights/retreat-for-the-participants-of-the-synodal-assembly.html
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