TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: The month of the Holy Souls

Here we are at the beginning of November, celebrating All Saints Day and All Souls Day starting the month of the Holy Souls. Many of us automatically turn our thoughts to our forebears, the people of faith who have walked beside us, held us, taught us, nurtured us, influenced us, inspired us and shared and shaped our lives.

We remember, and are grateful for, the blessings they have bestowed on us and continue to bestow on us when we turn to God through them in prayer. I love the images that come to me when I think about the Communion of Saints as we pray in our Apostles Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen. 

During the past week, I have listened to many people, particularly those working with me on and for our diocesan synod. They have expressed deep concern for our church and what may or may not emerge as the way forward. There are many articles that are being written about the impact of COVID on the Mass, parish life, the disconnection brought about by the pandemic, world ‘chaos’, sexual abuse, leadership, etc. I sense a sadness and despondency, because those who are working towards our synod along with the diocesan community, have recognised the need for a cultural shift, for transformational change, for a shift in mindset while the pain of the past is very present.

I realise that as humans we do not favour emergent models of change because they are not predictable or proven; it calls us to trust each other and the work on the Holy Spirit or as some might call it, divine providence, and to let it take as long as it needs to take. With these ponderings, one of last week’s readings from Ephesians (6:10-20) spoke deeply to me and our situation:

Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armour of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armour of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

I hope you are able to take courage from what Paul is writing to the people of Ephesus – to draw strength, to stand firm, to be guided in truth, to be clothed with righteousness, to live the Gospel of peace, to hold faith as our shield, to pray at every opportunity, to make known the boldness of the mystery of the Gospel and to have the courage to speak .

I also had another image come to me during the week as I walked and was praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, that of ‘Carrying the Cross’, because that is what it feels like to me personally and when I am in conversations with others. My solace comes from the realisation that I am not carrying this cross on my own, but with many others who are seeing the many diverse and complex issues and are trying to imagine a way forward.

So, to serve as a reminder for some of what we are doing around preparing for our continuing synod journey, we have the following Focus Groups working on different aspects of the synod:

  • Foundational Guiding Principles
  • Discernment of Data
  • Diocesan Directory
  • Governance Guiding Principles and Documentation
  • Events Planning

A website is presently being developed so that ongoing communication with the diocesan community will be readily available. On Tuesday evening (3/11), the Council for Mission will be considering the Diocesan Synod Directory and the Delegates document. It is our hope that we will soon be able to provide information about the discernment of delegates and the processes leading up to our second and third sessions of synod in May and November of next year.

The reading of the Beatitudes, for the Feast of All Saints, reminds us what our covenant with God entails – gentleness, righteousness, comforting, mercy, peacemakers, purity of heart, ………This is what it means to be God’s children.

And at the Cathedral on Sunday night the voices sang:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy burdened,
And I shall give you rest.
Take up my yoke and learn from me,
For I am meek and humble of heart.
And you'll find rest, for your souls.
Yes my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

(Gregory Norbet)

This reminds us of our burden while bearing God’s yoke in order to keep going. All we are asked to do is to live life with integrity, fully cooperating with God’s grace to advance the reign of God on this earth – no matter the cost, in spite of our human flaws. We have been sealed! We are a holy people entrusted with something most precious.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.