How long has it been since you turned down the noise?
When Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality in October 2021, he noted that this synod is a chance for the Church to pause and listen.
“The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen — to listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer,” Pope Francis said. “Today, how much we miss the prayer of adoration; so many people have lost not only the habit but also the very notion of what it means to worship God! To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground.”
By carving out intentional space to listen with open minds and open hearts, the Church can allow the Holy Spirit room to speak and work according to God’s will.
“For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy. The Holy Spirit guides us where God wants us to be, not to where our own ideas and personal tastes would lead us,” the pope said.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the local Synod on Synodality coincides with All Things New, the archdiocese’s strategic pastoral planning initiative. Feedback from the Disciple Maker Index survey, along with interviews, listening sessions and targeted surveys, will be synthesized and included in a local synod report. That report will be joined with reports from dioceses worldwide and will contribute to the synod on a universal Church level.
Right now, both the Synod on Synodality and All Things New are in phases of listening. In our current season of Lent, we are all called into the desert with Jesus, a space to strip away distractions and unite ourselves more closely with God. As the Church seeks to listen to its people, we must seek to listen to the Holy Spirit in our own hearts, allowing the Spirit to work at every level.
How can we make this season a Lent of listening?
Prayer: Sometimes it’s so easy to spend all of our prayer time talking to God — prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of petition — that we forget to slow down and listen. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God.” As we work to incorporate more prayer into our lives in Lent, let’s remember to make room for silence, even if for just five minutes a day.
Fasting: When we fast, we give up something to make more room for God to enter. It’s easy to fill our lives with all kinds of noise — our nightly Netflix binge or mindlessly scrolling social media. Taking time to relax and unwind is not a sin, of course, but how might fasting on occasion from some of our favorite distractions give us more time for God?
Almsgiving: Listening takes time and intention. This Lent, let’s be generous with our time by going out of our way to listen to others. Pope Francis particularly asked the synod to reach out to those on the margins. Who is on the margins in your own life? Who could use a phone call or a sympathetic ear over a steaming cup of coffee? Who has opinions different than your own, and what might you be able to learn from them?
Pope Francis said, “I am certain the Spirit will guide us and give us the grace to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living, in solidarity with the struggles and aspirations of all humanity.” Let’s make this a Lent of listening to allow the Holy Spirit room to give us guidance — in the universal Church, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and our own hearts.