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What’s Good in Hollywood: Bibles-N-Brew


We all know of the rising popularity of “micro-breweries”, but have you heard of  “micro-ministries”? I’ve been brewing faith out of my living room with a “micro-ministry” for the past seven years. It’s a little flavor I started called Bibles-N-Brew.

Bibles-N-Brew is a group of Christian men that meet in my living room every other week. Before moving to Hollywood, I worked a year with Catholic Christian Outreach, which specializes in university evangelization. This immensely valuable experience taught me how to build up a group and present the gospel in a clear relatable way. Arriving here, I met many Catholics who never had the blessing of this clear catechesis, so it seemed natural to start a something similar here. It needed a catchy name, and what better way to discuss God than over a beer? Thus “Bibles-N-Brew” was born!

We meet every other Monday night from 7:15 to 9:15pm at my home. We start with a short prayer asking God to send his Holy Spirit upon us and enlighten our minds. Most of our time is spent reading through a book chapter together (nobody ever has the time to read beforehand), pausing for discussion when something strikes us as interesting.

The choice of topic covered and quality of book is very important. We cover the basics of the faith: Why do you need a savior?  What is a personal relationship with Christ? What are the sacraments? Encyclicals are great for those already committed to the faith, but aren’t very accessible to those not versed in church language. I recommend some simpler material to get started with:

“Be a Man” Fr. Larry Richards

“Discovery Bible Study” from Catholic Christian Outreach

God has also shown me how important it is to discuss “masculine” topics – blacksmithing, bull-riding and motor oil, right?… No, try chastity, pornography, leadership and fatherhood. We’re living through a crisis of chastity unlike the world has ever seen. The antidote to this is for men to talk candidly about their struggles and lean on each other for support. Some fantastic resources to get discussion going it these areas are:

“The Courage to be Chaste” Fr. Benedict Groeschel

“Sexaholics Anonymous”

We’re not just an intellectual study group. We share our weaknesses with one another. It’s important to set the tone, and often this means being the first to share your struggles. We have a seal of confidentiality that what’s shared in the group must stay there. You’ll be surprised at how relieved men look once the ice is broken on difficult subjects.  Through our group I’m proud to say that many men have attained a much greater degree of chastity in their lives.

It’s the leaders job to keep a balance between the material and discussion, to keep discussion on track, and to get all the men involved. Be committed to your men! Desire their well-being, pray for them and love them! You may not have the grace for this initially, but pray for it. This may perhaps your greatest opportunity to change the world.

Thirty minutes before we end we pray together. Someone starts in an opening prayer, and in no particular order we speak aloud our intentions. When everyone’s had a chance to go, the prayer leader will close in an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Guarantee that you’re done by 9:15pm every night. This is more important than you think. People are busy, and when they see their time is respected, they’re more likely to come back.

Finally of course, we drink beer (in moderation!) while we discuss. Have some snacks too if you can – men are suckers for good food! The rest of the evening is spent socializing and fellowshipping, when we really talk about bull riding and motor oil.

There’s so much more I could say about doing this successfully, such as personal invitations, being well prepared, believing in the material and being organized. But the most important of all is prayer! I spend a lot of time praying for my group, for my men specifically, for what material to study, and that God would bring the right men out. I have a list of “prayer warriors” too, to whom I send a separate e-mail asking for prayers. I like to let them know how the group is going and what they can be praying for. Never underestimate the power of prayer!

On any given night, we’ll have between 5-10 men, out of a core group of around 30. Many members of my group are aspiring actors, writers, directors and musicians. Of course I hope they’ll influence the world for the better, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because we’re called to love each person right where they’re at, simply because God sees them as an irreplaceable gift. Share your love of God and help each other to grow in virtue. Small in the eyes of the world is not small in God’s eyes!

It’s that simple. Anyone can have a “micro ministry” in his living room.

Your group will be different. You know different men, in a different city, with a different culture, and different needs. You’ll need to tailor your group to accommodate those needs. Start by praying. See what God says to you and to whom he leads you. This is going to be His group that He wants to start, and you’re just the tool. However, He needs you to be the Leader of this group and to make it happen – so do it!


Mark J. Matthews – our Hollywood Undercover Missionary @HUMissionary
Mark Matthews is a graphic designer and animator working in Hollywood.  Listen to his “What’s Good About Hollywood?” column once a month on  the SLHour.

Deacon-structing The Cry of the Poor: part 2


Last week we learned that the Church loves the poor. We have what we call a “preferential option for the poor.” The Church has been very good at caring for the poor and the needy worldwide. So why did Cardinal Hummes of Brazil tell Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, to “remember the poor”?

Perhaps because the Church has been so good at caring for the poor, we: you and I, have neglected caring for the poor. Because we have the Missionaries of Charity and the Brothers of the Good Shepherd and so many other congregations dedicated to helping the poor and it’s easy to say, “oh, the St. Vincent de Paul Society does that” or “that’s why we have Share Life and they provide for all those agencies that do such good work.” So we don’t do it. All we do is write a cheque, or we don’t write a cheque because we know others will and we say “when I have a better job I’ll help the poor.” In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says that this option for the poor is not “a mission that is reserved only to a few” (#188). We must all have a preferential option for the poor. Because God has a preferential option for the poor. I have to be honest, I struggle with this. I have the same attitudes that many of us have. We think, “Why can’t they just get a job?” or “if they worked harder or made better choices they wouldn’t be in this situation.” These are attitudes that we have.

James 2:1-5 we read that if we go to a gathering and someone wearing fine clothes arrives and we say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor we say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” we have become judges with evil thoughts. If I walk past a homeless person and think, “why can’t she just get a job?” I am doing the same thing.

I’ve always been moved by that reading from the Letter of James. Who would you treat better if they came to your parish? Who would get more attention? A good-looking, rich, famous person, like George Clooney and his lawyer wife, or a smelly homeless person like Sherry (LINK TO PART 1) who talks to herself?

We must change our attitudes on the poor and the marginalized. For an explanation, I take a page from my friend  Joe Zambon. Joe is a Catholic singer/songwriter and wrote a song called, “Remember the Poor.” He says that he also struggled with this same question, “why should we care for the poor?” He realized that God prefers the poor because compared to God, we are all poor. When in the presence of God, all of us are poor beggars; we are all weak, blind, deaf, disabled; we are all orphans and refugees; we are all slaves. That’s why Jesus constantly cared for the poor and the sick. That’s all over the Book of Isaiah and in other books of the Prophets it says that when we arrive in the Promised Land the blind will see and the deaf shall hear – that’s a message we’ll hear constantly during Advent. When we arrive at our final destination we will be poor no more.

But for now, we are poor. And because we are a people of signs and symbols – we live in a material world and so we have physical signs that point to something spiritual, something greater (that’s why we have Sacraments) – every time we care for the poor we are reminded of how God cares for us, who are poor, and how much we need God. There is no one who has ever lived or who is alive today or who will ever live who does not need God.

But Pope Francis wants us to do more than just care for the poor. Listen to what he writes in The Joy of the Gospel.

“This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us… in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelised by them…. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” (#198)

We are called not just to care for the poor but to be poor ourselves. Again, I struggle with this. This past Summer I interviewed another Catholic songwriter, Fr. Richard Ho Lung for a Perspectives on Consecrated Life– he founded the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica. Fr. Ho Lung was a Jesuit priest, like Pope Francis – he taught at a prestigious Jesuit school in Kingston, Jamaica – but felt that he could not ignore the poor. He needed to live with the poor. So he did. He founded the Missionaries of the Poor, a community that now exists in many countries. I asked him if it wasn’t enough that we only cared for the poor. Do we also have to be poor? He said, “Absolutely!” It’s not enough to just care for the poor; we have to be a poor Church for the poor.

Did I say that I struggle with this? I don’t think anyone is saying that we have to sell everything we own and give it to the poor – but let me leave you with this: Perhaps we need to pray and meditate on what it means to be poor. Can we simplify our lives? Do I really need three TVs? Do I need 25 pairs of shoes? Do I need to have a café latte every day on my way to work? Can we get rid of things that make it harder for us to depend on God? That’s why Jesus says that it’s very difficult for a rich person to enter Heaven. When we are rich, we have it all, we are not in need and we can solve all our own problems. When we are poor, we have nothing – we depend on others for help; it’s easier to depend on God.

Joe Zambon’s song is called Remember the Poor.

He sings,

May I never forget the poor.
Unless I go and forget who I am.
May I never forget who I am.
For I am poor.”

Let’s not forget who we are. Next time you go  to receive the Eucharist, think of who you are receiving, the one who became poor for our sake – the one who sends us to care for those who are not as fortunate as we are. Think of who we are, the poor beggars who need Christ and let’s pray that our ears be opened that we may hear the cry of the poor.

And if you’re in Toronto and happen to go by the corner of King and Jarvis on a sunny morning, don’t walk by; stop and say hello to Sherry.

CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

“Mother and head of all the churches on earth”


Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – Monday, November 9, 2015

Today we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It is known as “Mother and head of all churches on earth” because it was the original residence of the Pope. There is a formidable and significant stone inscription on the façade of the Basilica that reads: Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.”

Steeped in historical significance

The basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century AD and was dedicated on November 9, 324, by Pope Sylvester I. The anniversary of the dedication of this church has been observed since the 12th century. An added significance to this feast is the fact that the first Holy Year was proclaimed from this church in the year 1300.

The magnificent church was first called the Basilica of the Saviour but later was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, and so it acquired the name of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. When the papacy was transferred to Avignon for about a century, the condition of the Lateran deteriorated so greatly that when the Pope returned to Rome he lived in two other locations before finally settling adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lives now.

In the course of its history, St. John Lateran suffered just about as many disasters and revivals as did the papacy it hosted. Sacked by Alaric in 408 and Genseric in 455, it was rebuilt by Pope Leo the Great (440-461), and centuries later by Pope Hadrian I (772-795). The basilica was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 896, and was again restored by Pope Sergius III (904-911). Later the church was heavily damaged by fires in 1308 and 1360. When the Popes returned from their sojourn in Avignon, France (1304-1377), they found their basilica and palace in such disrepair that they decided to transfer to the Vatican Basilica (also built by Constantine, it had until then served primarily as a pilgrimage church).

Several important relics are kept within the Lateran Basilica. The wooden altar on which St. Peter celebrated Mass while in Rome is believed to be inside the main altar. The heads of Saints Peter and Paul were once believed to be inside busts above the main altar. Part of the table on which the Last Supper was celebrated is said to be behind a bronze depiction of the Last Supper. At one time the basilica also contained the Holy Stairs on which Jesus is said to have walked during his trial in the house of Pontius Pilate. The stairs are marble and are now covered with wood to protect them. They are currently located in the former Lateran Palace. Pilgrims ascend them on their knees, contemplating Jesus’ Passion. As they ascend, drops of blood may be seen on the marble stairs beneath protective glass. The stairs were brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother Saint Helena.

Many important historic events have also taken place in St. John Lateran, including five Ecumenical Councils and many diocesan synods. In 1929 the Lateran Pacts, which established the territory and status of the State of Vatican City, were signed here between the Holy See and the Government of Italy.

A feast of the People of God

There are two dimensions to today’s feast: it is the celebration of a building that is the mother church of Christendom. We focus our minds and hearts on the unity and love of the whole Church that finds expression in our fidelity to the one who walks in Peter’s shoes: the Pope.

It is also the feast of the People of God who form the Church. The Second Vatican Council helps us to focus our attention on the mystery of the Church – the sign of unity and the instrument of Christ’s peace on earth.

The Cleansing of the Temple

The Gospel of John’s account of Jesus cleansing the Temple seems at first to be a bit out of place for the feast of the dedication of the Mother Church of Rome. John’s account of the cleansing of the Temple (2:13-22) stands in sharp contrast to the other Gospel accounts of this powerful story (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). In the Synoptic Gospels, this same scene takes place at the end of the “Palm Sunday Procession” into the holy city. With the people shouting out in triumph, he entered into the Temple area. But this time, not to do homage but to challenge the Temple and its leaders. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and upset the stalls of those selling birds and animals for sacrifice. It was an electrifying moment. He quoted the Scriptures: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations; but you have made it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46; Isaiah 56:6-7; Jeremiah 7:11).

John uses this incident to give meaning to Jesus’ entire ministry and he is alone among the evangelists in linking the cleansing of the Temple of Jerusalem with the prediction of its destruction. This destruction is symbolic of the end of the Old Covenant and its forms of worship. John says that Jesus was speaking about his own body rather than the temple building (2:21). The new Temple will be his resurrected Body. In the new Covenant, true worship will be “in Christ.”

John’s account of the cleansing of the Temple is quite provocative for many reasons. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus quotes from Psalm 68:10: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” I have preferred to translate that verse: “I am filled with a burning love for your house…” The Temple was not an emporium (a mall!) but his Father’s house. Like the prophets before him, Jesus tried to awaken the hearts of his people. Their prayer had to come from the heart; their sacrifices, however good and true, were no substitute for justice.

The Messiah would purify Israel’s worship but John goes beyond that to suggest an even more radical change: Israel’s worship will not only be purified, it will also be replaced. The presence of God in Israel shall be replaced by the presence of God in the Temple which is the Body of Jesus. These startling words and actions of Jesus in the Temple took on new meaning for later generations of Christians.

One intriguing aspect of this story is the portrait of an angry Jesus contained in the cleansing scenes. These provocative images can give way to two extremes in our own image of God’s Messiah. Some people wish to transform an otherwise passive Christ pictured above many altars into a whip-cracking revolutionary. Others prefer to excise any human qualities of Jesus and paint a very meek, bland character who would never upset anyone.

The errors of the old extreme, however, do not justify a new extremism. Jesus was not exclusively – not even primarily – concerned with social reform. Jesus was filled with a deep devotion and love for his Father and the things of his Father. His disciples recognized in Jesus a passionate figure – one who was committed to life and to losing it for the sake of truth and fidelity.

Have we given in to these extremes in our own understanding of and relationship with Jesus? Are we passionate about anything in our lives today? Are they the right things? Are we filled with a deep and burning love for the things of God and for his Son, Jesus?

On this feast of the dedication of the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, let us pray for a strengthening of our communion with each other and with all God’s people across the face of the earth. May the Lord purify the sanctuary of our hearts, and build us up as living stones into a holy temple. May we be filled with consuming zeal for the house of the Lord, our Church, and our churches. May our communion with the Church of Rome confirm us as a vibrant, loving, hospitable universal Church, a place of welcome for all who seek God’s face.

[The readings for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica are: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:9b-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22.]

The Moses Effect


Last week, I went supper with a group of friends. All of a sudden, a friend sitting beside me took off his smartwatch and put it harshly on the table. I turned to him and he looked so angry. I thought it is because someone texted him something awful to make him angry. I asked him what happened and he said, “The smartwatch is so stupid. I press the button one time and it doesn’t do anything. So I pressed it again and it canceled my first press. What a stupid smart watch!!” Then I told him, this is called “Moses’ effect!”

“Moses then raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the branch; water gushed out in abundance, and the community and their livestock drank.” (Numbers 20:11)

Moses struck the rock twice because of his lack of faith in God!  My friend pressed the smartwatch button twice because he has no faith in the smartwatch? Of course, this was just a joke to my friend. I do not think my friend was being punished by the smartwatch because of his lack of faith. He just has lack of patience.

God knows everything. God knows Moses had a lack of faith in Him. God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe that I could assert my holiness before the Israelites’ eyes, you will not lead this assembly into the country which I am giving them.” (Numbers 20:12)

How many times are we mad to God for prayers that are said in vain? How many times do we simply not trust God? I had to take a deep breath when I was seriously thinking about this. However, everyone says to keep praying! Don’t get me wrong, God allows us to pray for the same thing over and over again, but it has to be done with total faith! We cannot pray repeatedly because we do not trust God. This is not logical. If we do not trust God, then we shouldn’t be praying at all, right?

The power of faith is enormous. We are told over again that Jesus said to the person who had been cured, “Your faith has healed you.” It is implicitly saying that it is not Jesus who has some sort of special power to heal the sick people. They are truly healed through their faith which is a special relationship between God and them. The relationship is unique, true and powerful. It is not hard to understand that God was angry with Moses because he broke his special relationship with God. On top of it, it was not the first time God asked Moses to strike the rock. In Exodus 17:6,  I shall be waiting for you there on the rock (at Horeb). Strike the rock, and water will come out for the people to drink.’ This was what Moses did, with the elders of Israel looking on.

I hope my friend doesn’t read this blog. I am sure that he won’t be too happy that I told everyone about his stupid smartwatch. Sorry!


Billy Chan, a former radio host and motivational speaker,  spent the past ten years working with youth in Montreal. He enjoys using  humour to illustrate his relationship with God. In his blog, you will find reflections on his experience with youth ministry and his special way of working with youth today.


Called to Love Conference – A Grand Success


The Newman Centre at the University of Toronto hosted its first 3-day Regional Canadian Catholic Students Association Conference (CCSA) over the weekend of October 23 – 25. CCSA Conferences are organized annually to bring together students who are actively engaged in their university chaplaincies to network, to share best practices for mission and ministry, and to be nourished intellectually and spiritually. The theme of our conference was Called to Love: Journeying with the Synod on Marriage and the Family.

Bilingual Conference
Held for the first time in Toronto, the CCSA conference at Newman Centre attracted over 70 participants, most of whom were student leaders and campus ministers from 10 different post-secondary institutions. This was the first CCSA conference for 90% of the participants. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Campus Ministers from University of Ottawa and Université de Montréal, we were able to raise funds to make this conference bilingual which attracted students from Concordia University (Montreal), Université Laval (Quebec), Université de Montréal (Montreal), and University of Ottawa (Ottawa). It was a great opportunity for Anglophone and Francophone students to come together and realize both the similarities of what it means to be a part of a Catholic movement on Campus, as well as,  appreciate and learn from the differences between Campus Ministries in Ontario and Quebec.

Conference Speakers
Our 17 speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. There were couples, parents, consecrated religious, and those in courtship who shared very personal experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – bearing witness to the grace of God that they received through their joys and struggles. Others were professionals who shared their expertise in areas of fertility care and also the annulment process. Presentations were made through keynotes and workshops and the content married theology with real-life experiences. Every presentation was brimming  with advice and suggestions on how to prepare one’s self not simply to enter into a state of life but to know that entering into a state of life is not just saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord once, but instead to say ‘Yes’ to Him every day of one’s life.

The talks were delivered in the spirit of the synod, creating a space for questions, discussion and an awareness of the reality of the vocation of marriage and family life which is in stark contrast to mainstream media’s portrayal of marriage.


Participants Reactions
The participants were amazed by the honesty with which many of speakers shared in matters of mental health, adoption, interfaith discussions, financial struggles, and the many times they had to place the needs of their spouse above their own. Participants were also exposed to how the role of individual and communal prayer in family life strengthens their bond. That is, they got to envision, “A family that prays together, stays together,” in action. In addition to a clearer understanding of marriage, participants were also given a chance to appreciate the inner workings of the opposite sex in our ‘Reverse Men’s and Women’s Sessions.’

Participants witnessed first hand Pope Francis’ remarks on the family, namely, “There is no greater “school” to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family, which are, in God’s plan, a blessing for our world,” and in another place, “….the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by our fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life,” [Pope Francis, General Audience October 21, 2015]. In other words, they got to witness the beauty of making a choice to enter into a state of life and the grace and freedom this choice brings in daily life.

Conference Goal Achieved
Overall, this conference gave participants not only a clearer understanding and appreciation of marriage and the family life, but it also allowed students to network with each other and appreciate the different ways that Jesus’ name is spread throughout the university campus. We (Fr. Chris, Erin, Natasha and I) were very grateful for the opportunity to host such a conference that brought together the opportunity to develop lifetime networks and friendships.

List of Talks:

  • Witness to Holiness in Marriage – John MacMullen (Office of Catholic Youth) and Marifa MacMullen (Fitness instructor)
  • Discerning and Preparing for Marriage – the Practicals and the Impracticals – Dr. John Berkman (Regis College)
  • Creating a Culture of Vocations in the Family – Dr. Janine Langan (Professor Emeritus, University of St. Michael’s College)

Breakout Sessions:

  • Men’s Session – Dr. Josephine Lombardi (St. Augustine’s Seminar)
  • Women’s Session – Cale Clarke (The Faith Explained Seminars)
  • Consecrated Life and the Family – Sr. Maria Parousia, SSVM (Centre For Medieval Studies) and John O’Brien, SJ (Regis College)
  • Modern Challenges in the Family – Johan and Christina Demeester (Adoption), Peter and Stacey Leitmann (Mental Health and Depression), Abigail Kitane (Inter-faith), Fr. Alex Laschuk (Revisions in the Annulment Process)
  • Theology of the Body – Blaise Alleyne (Regis College, Graduate of the Theology of the Body Institute)
  • Natural Family Planning – Vania Branker and Karen Hemmingway from Fertility Care, Toronto.

SonalSonal Castelino, M.Div, is the Associate Director of Formation and Programs at the University of Toronto Newman Centre.

Deacon-structing: All Saints


I wrote this a few years ago. Thought it would be good to share it again with you. Enjoy and Happy Feast of All Saints!

Last night, speaking with my kids about what costumes would be suitable for Halloween, it occurred to me that some characters from the Book of Revelation would probably make for good costumes. And then I thought of today’s first reading, one of my favourite Scripture passages:

”And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.”

This is how the Book of Revelation describes a heavenly scene –- a scene where there are countless numbers of people, myriads of angels, heavenly creatures, all the souls of the just -– all of them, standing before the throne of God, in eternal worship.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. As Catholics, we love Saints, we honour them, we learn from them, we let them intercede for us, pray for us. For some people, this idea of “saints” may be confusing, but it’s clear from a quick read of the Book of Revelation that the idea of “saints in heaven” makes perfect sense.

I know that Revelation is not a book that many people enjoy reading. It’s not a book that most people understand and in popular culture it’s got a bit of a bad rap. Most of what we hear is that it’s about the end of the world, that it contains prophecies about the final judgment, that there is going to be a battle between the anti-Christ and the Archangel Michael, and so on. Let me take the opportunity to tell you that everyone can read and understand the Book of Revelation. Let me give you a few pointers today and then tomorrow I’ll look specifically at today’s reading.

The Greek name of the book is Apokalypsis, which is why in English sometimes you hear about the “Apocalypse”. But the word apocalypse has nothing to do with cataclysmic end-of-the-world events. Apocalypsis means “unveiling”, as in lifting a veil. It means “to reveal.” That’s why the name of the book in English is “Revelation.” This is a book that reveals something to us about Christ. Actually, the first words of the book are “The revelation of Christ…” So, in fact, in this book, Christ himself is revealing something to us: He is revealing himself to us.

No one knows who wrote it except that his name is John. Whether he is John the evangelist or John the disciple or some other John, no one knows. All we know is that this John was in the island of Patmos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea where Christian exiles were sent. So, it’s possible that John had been sent there because of some Christian persecution. This is why many scholars believe that the Book of Revelation is directed at persecuted Christians to give them hope in the midst of the crises and to encourage them to persevere in their faith. Even though you may be experiencing beasts, dragons and martyrdom, in the end Christ will win and you will all be in heaven with Him shortly.

Other scholars believe that the book is actually written not for persecuted Christians, but for very comfortable Christians who were quite content to live in the Greco-Roman world and culture. These were Christians who, maybe, were compromising their beliefs a bit. They were “Sunday Christians” -– Christians who didn’t walk the talk. They professed Christianity with their lips, with empty ritual, but were content to continue with certain aspects of the current culture. Not unlike today. We don’t have to imagine a Pope Benedict writing a letter dealing with the topic of relativism in a world where Catholics have fallen into the cycle of ritualistic observance, while being content to accept many of the false ideas of the day. We know exactly what that is all about. That’s why I like this explanation much better than the one about persecuted Christians — because I can relate. I am not a persecuted Christian but, in many ways, I am a Christian who can easily get confused by the conflicting yet popular messages and half-truths of the time.

So, John is writing to Christians who became too comfortable. Can you imagine that already happening at the end of the first century? The resurrection had taken place maybe 50 years earlier, and already relativism was at work.

The book begins with seven specific messages to seven churches (Rev 1:4-3:22). We know that there were more than seven churches or church communities at the time, so maybe these seven represent the main problems that Christians were facing. But what are the problems described? “You tolerate the teachings of Jezebel” (Rev 2:20-21) and “accepted the teachings of the Nicolaitans and of Balaam” (Rev. 2:14-15). “You have grown lukewarm” (Rev 3:16) and “you’ve abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4). These could be problems that each of us could face today. And each letter ends with a promise to the “victor”. Those who are victorious will receive their reward.

A lot of the things we hear about Revelation have to do with the idea that it is more about the punishment for those who worship the beast or follow the anti-Christ. But again, if you read it carefully, you’ll see that it is just as much about the Triumph of Christ and the reward for these “victors”.

And so, to go back to my earlier post about Halloween, Miri R’s comment reminded me of this: false prophets. The Book of Revelation is about lifting the veil. It is about revealing what’s really underneath. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ, but, in some way, it also reveals these false prophets and false messages of the day. We can do this with Halloween celebrations by thinking they are harmless and we can also do it by putting too much emphasis on saints and other devotions. Salvation belongs only to God and to the Lamb and to Him be only blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honour and power.

Tomorrow, as we pray for All Souls, we’ll look at Revelation 7:2-14.


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Fr. Brendan Collins on Irish Same-Sex Referendum


A priest of the Diocese of Derry, Fr. Brendan Collins discusses the historic referendum which legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland.

How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network Fridays at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.


Pope Francis’ Address at Conclusion of Synod of Bishops


Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’ discourse at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall this afternoon:

Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like first of all to thank the Lord, who has guided our synodal process in these years by his Holy Spirit, whose support is never lacking to the Church.

My heartfelt thanks go to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, its Under-Secretary, and, together with them, the Relator, Cardinal Peter Erd?, and the Special Secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Delegate Presidents, the writers, consultors and translators, and all those who have worked tirelessly and with total dedication to the Church: My deepest thanks!

I likewise thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Assessors, parish priests and families, for your active and fruitful participation.

And I thank all those unnamed men and women who contributed generously to the labours of this Synod by quietly working behind the scenes.

Be assured of my prayers, that the Lord will reward all of you with his abundant gifts of grace!

As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?

Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.

Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.

It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.

It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world.

It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.

It was about trying to view and interpret realities, today’s realities, through God’s eyes, so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and moral crisis, and growing pessimism.

It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others.

It was also about laying closed hearts, which bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.

It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.

It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.

In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid image of a Church which does not simply “rubberstamp”, but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts.1

And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.2 The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures”.3Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures.4

We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults.

And without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only that “all be saved” (cf. 1 Tm2:4). In this way we wished to experience this Synod in the context of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which the Church is called to celebrated.

Dear Brothers,

The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but raather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:37-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).

In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).

The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50).

Blessed Paul VI expressed this eloquently: “”We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in him a more intense flame of love, a desire to bring us back to himself and to his saving plan… God, in Christ, shows himself to be infinitely good… God is good. Not only in himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves us, he seeks us out, he thinks of us, he knows us, he touches our hearts us and he waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our repentance becomes God’s joy”.5

Saint John Paul II also stated that: “the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy… and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser”.6

Benedict XVI, too, said: “Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God… May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for mankind. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth, or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn10:10)”.7

In light of all this, and thanks to this time of grace which the Church has experienced in discussing the family, we feel mutually enriched. Many of us have felt the working of the Holy Spirit who is the real protagonist and guide of the Synod. For all of us, the word “family” has a new resonance, so much so that the word itself already evokes the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod.8

In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return to our true “journeying together” in bringing to every part of the world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy!

Thank you!

CNS photo/Paul Haring



1 Cf. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina on the Centenary of its Faculty of Theology, 3 March 2015.

2 Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, Fede e cultura alla luce della Bibbia. Atti della Sessione plenaria 1979 della Pontificia Commissione Biblica, LDC, Leumann, 1981; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 44.

3 Final Relatio (7 December 1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 10 December 1985, 7.

4 “In virtue of her pastoral mission, the Church must remain ever attentive to historical changes and to the development of new ways of thinking. Not, of course, to submit to them, but rather to surmount obstacles standing in the way of accepting her counsels and directives” (Interview with Cardinal Georges Cottier, in La Civiltà Cattolica 3963-3964, 8 August 2015, p. 272).

5 Homily, 23 June 1968: Insegnamenti VI (1968), 1177-1178.

Dives in Misericordia, 13. He also said: “In the paschal mystery… God appears to us as he is: a tender-hearted Father, who does not give up in the face of his childrens’ ingratitude and is always ready to forgive (JOHN PAUL II, Regina Coeli, 23 April 1995: Insegnamenti XVIII, 1 [1995], 1035). So too he described resistance to mercy: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness…” (Dives in Misericordia [30 November 1980] 2).

Regina Coeli, 30 March 2008: Insegnamenti IV, 1 (2008), 489-490. Speaking of the power of mercy, he stated: “it is mercy that sets a limit to evil. In it is expressed God’s special nature – his holiness, the power of truth and of love” (Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, 15 April 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 667).

8 An acrostic look at the word “family” [Italian: “famiglia”] can help us summarize the Church’s mission as the task of: Forming new generations to experience love seriously, not as an individualistic search for a pleasure then to be discarded, and to believe once again in true, fruitful and lasting love as the sole way of emerging from ourselves and being open to others, leaving loneliness behind, living according to God’s will, finding fulfilment, realizing that marriage is “an experience which reveals God’s love, defending the sacredness of life, every life, defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously” (Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015:L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 October 2015, p. 7) and, furthermore, enhancing marriage preparation as a means of providing a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of the sacrament of Matrimony; Approaching others, since a Church closed in on herself is a dead Church, while a Church which does leave her own precincts behind in order to seek, embrace and lead others to Christ is a Church which betrays her very mission and calling; Manifesting and bringing God’s mercy to families in need; to the abandoned, to the neglected elderly, to children pained by the separation of their parents, to poor families struggling to survive, to sinners knocking on our doors and those who are far away, to the differently able, to all those hurting in soul and body, and to couples torn by grief, sickness, death or persecution; Illuminating consciences often assailed by harmful and subtle dynamics which even attempt to replace God the Creator, dynamics which must be unmasked and resisted in full respect for the dignity of each person; Gaining and humbly rebuilding trust in the Church, which has been gravely weakened as a result of the conduct and sins of her children – sadly, the counter-witness of scandals committed in the Church by some clerics have damaged her credibility and obscured the brightness of her saving message; Labouring intensely to sustain and encourage those many strong and faithful families which, in the midst of their daily struggles, continue to give a great witness of fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the Lord’s commandments; Inventing renewed programmes of pastoral care for the family based on the Gospel and respectful of cultural differences, pastoral care which is capable of communicating the Good News in an attractive and positive manner and helping banish from young hearts the fear of making definitive commitments, pastoral care which is particularly attentive to children, who are the real victims of broken families, pastoral care which is innovative and provides a suitable preparation for the sacrament of Matrimony, rather than so many programmes which seem more of a formality than training for a lifelong commitment; Aiming to love unconditionally all families, particularly those experiencing difficulties, since no family should feel alone or excluded from the Church’s loving embrace, and the real scandal is a fear of love and of showing that love concretely.

Pope Francis’ Address at Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops – Final Text


Pope Francis’ Address at Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops – FINAL TEXT
October 17, 2015
Paul VI Audience Hall – Vatican City

Your Beatitudes,
Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Brothers and Sisters,

As the Ordinary General Assembly is in full session, this commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops is, for all of us, a cause for joy, praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  From the time of the Second Vatican Council until the present Assembly, we have experienced ever more intensely the necessity and beauty of “journeying together”.

On this happy occasion I offer cordial greetings to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General, the Undersecretary, Archbishop Fabio Fabene, the Officials, the Consultors and the other collaborators in the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, those who are behind the scenes and work late each evening.  I also greet and thank the Synod Fathers and the other participants in the current Assembly, as well as all those present.

At this time we also wish to remember those who, in the course of the last fifty years, have offered their services to the Synod, beginning with the successive General Secretaries: Cardinal W?adys?aw Rubin, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte and Archbishop Nikola Eterovi?.  I also take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to those — both living and deceased — who contributed so generously and competently to the Synod’s work.

From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I sought to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council.1  For Blessed Paul VI, the Synod of Bishops was meant to reproduce the image of the Ecumenical Council and reflect its spirit and method.2  Pope Paul foresaw that the organization of the Synod could “be improved upon with the passing of time”.3  Twenty years later, Saint John Paul II echoed that thought when he stated that “this instrument might be further improved. Perhaps collegial pastoral responsibility could be more fully expressed in the Synod”.4  In 2006, Benedict XVI approved several changes to the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, especially in light of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which had been promulgated in the meantime.5

We must continue along this path.  The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission.  It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.


What the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word “synod”.   Journeying together — laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome — is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.

After stating that the people of God is comprised of all the baptized who are called to “be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood”,6 the Second Vatican Council went on to say that “the whole body of the faithful, who have an anointing which comes from the holy one (cf. 1 Jn 2:20,27), cannot err in matters of belief.  This characteristic is shown in the supernatural sense of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people of God, when ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful’ it manifests a universal consensus in matters of faith and morals”.7  These are the famous words infallible“in credendo”.

In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I emphasized that “the people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo”,8 and added that “all the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients”.9  The sensus fidei prevents a rigid separation between an Ecclesia docens and an Ecclesia discens, since the flock likewise has an instinctive ability to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.10

            Such was the conviction underlying my desire that the people of God should be consulted in the preparation of the two phases of the Synod on the family, as is ordinarily done with each Lineamenta.  Certainly, a consultation of this sort would never be sufficient to perceive the sensus fidei.  But how could we speak about the family without engaging families themselves, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their anguish?11  Through the answers given to the two questionnaires sent to the particular Churches, we had the opportunity at least to hear some of those families speak to issues which closely affect them and about which they have much to say.

A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realizes that listening “is more than simply hearing”.12  It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.  The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).

The Synod of Bishops is the point of convergence of this listening process conducted at every level of the Church’s life.  The Synod process begins by listening to the people of God, which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office”,13 according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet”.  The Synod process then continues by listening to the pastors.  Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which they need to discern carefully from the changing currents of public opinion.  On the eve of last year’s Synod I stated: “For the Synod Fathers we ask the Holy Spirit first of all for the gift of listening: to listen to God, so that with him we may hear the cry of his people; to listen to his people until we are in harmony with the will to which God calls us”.14  The Synod process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called to speak as “pastor and teacher of all Christians”,15 not on the basis of his personal convictions but as the supreme witness to the fides totius Ecclesiae, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church.

The fact that the Synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro — indeed, not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro — is not a limitation of freedom, but a guarantee of unity.  For the Pope is, by will of the Lord, “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful”.17  Closely related to this is the concept of “hierarchica communio” as employed by the Second Vatican Council: the Bishops are linked to the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) while, at the same time, hierarchically subject to him as head of the college (sub Petro).18



Synodality, as a constitutive element of the Church, offers us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the hierarchical ministry itself.  If we understand, as Saint John Chrysostom says, that “Church and Synod are synonymous”,19 inasmuch as the Church is nothing other than the “journeying together” of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord, then we understand too that, within the Church, no one can be “raised up” higher than others.  On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person  “lower” himself or herself, so as to serve our brothers and sisters along the way.

Jesus founded the Church by setting at her head the Apostolic College, in which the Apostle Peter is the “rock” (cf. Mt 16:18), the one who must confirm his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32).  But in this Church, as in an inverted pyramid, the top is located beneath the base.  Consequently, those who exercise authority are called “ministers”, because, in the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all.  It is in serving the people of God that each bishop becomes, for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi,20 the vicar of that Jesus who at the Last Supper bent down to wash the feet of the Apostles (cf. Jn 13:1-15).  And in a similar perspective, the Successor of Peter is nothing else if not the servus servorum Dei.21

Let us never forget this! For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of service, the only power is the power of the cross.  As the Master tells us: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:25-27).  It shall not be so among you: in this expression we touch the heart of the mystery of the Church, and we receive the enlightenment necessary to understand our hierarchical service.


In a synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.

The first level of the exercise of synodality is had in the particular Churches.  After mentioning the noble institution of the Diocesan Synod, in which priests and laity are called to cooperate with the bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community,22 the Code of Canon Law devotes ample space to what are usually called “organs of communion” in the local Church: the presbyteral council, the college of consultors, chapters of canons and the pastoral council.23  Only to the extent that these organizations keep connected to the “base” and start from people and their daily problems, can a synodal Church begin to take shape: these means, even when they prove wearisome, must be valued as an opportunity for listening and sharing.

The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Ecclesiastical Regions, Particular Councils and, in a special way, Conferences of Bishops.24  We need to reflect on how better to bring about, through these bodies, intermediary instances of collegiality, perhaps by integrating and updating certain aspects of the ancient ecclesiastical organization.  The hope expressed by the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized.  We are still on the way, part-way there.  In a synodal Church, as I have said, “it is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory.  In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization’”.25

The last level is that of the universal Church.  Here the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, becomes an expression of episcopal collegiality within an entirely synodal Church.26  Two different phrases: “episcopal collegiality” and an “entirely synodal Church”.  This level manifests the collegialitas affectiva, which can also become in certain circumstances “effective”, joining the Bishops among themselves and with the Pope in solicitude for the People God.27

The commitment to build a synodal Church — a mission to which we are all called, each with the role entrusted him by the Lord — has significant ecumenical implications.  For this reason, speaking recently to a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I reaffirmed my conviction that “a careful examination of how, in the Church’s life, the principle of synodality and the service of the one who presides are articulated, will make a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches”.28

I am persuaded that in a synodal Church, greater light can be shed on the exercise of the Petrine primacy.  The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but within it as one of the baptized, and within the College of Bishops as a Bishop among Bishops, called at the same time — as Successor of Peter — to lead the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches.29

While reaffirming the urgent need to think about “a conversion of the papacy”,30 I willingly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II: “As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware […] that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells.  I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation”.31

Our gaze also extends to humanity as a whole.  A synodal Church is like a standard lifted up among the nations (cf. Is 11:12) in a world which — while calling for participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration — often consigns the fate of entire peoples to the grasp of small but powerful groups.  As a Church which “journeys together” with men and women, sharing the travails of history, let us cherish the dream that a rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and of the function of authority as service will also be able to help civil society to be built up in justice and fraternity, and thus bring about a more beautiful and humane world for coming generations.32  Thank you.

It was this conviction that guided me when I desired that God’s people would be consulted in the preparation of the two-phased synod on the family. Certainly, a consultation like this would never be able to hear the entire sensus fidei (sense of the faith). But how would we ever be able to speak about the family without engaging families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their anguish? Through the answers to the two questionnaires sent to the particular Churches, we had the opportunity to at least hear some of the people on those issues that closely affect them and about which they have much to say.

A synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling.” It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit “is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).

The Synod of Bishops is the convergence point of this dynamic of listening conducted at all levels of church life. The synodal process starts by listening to the people, who “even participate in the prophetic office of Christ”, according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet” [what concerns all needs to be debated by all]. The path of the Synod continues by listening to the pastors. Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, who must be able to carefully distinguish from that which flows from frequently changing public opinion.

On the eve of the Synod of last year I stated: “First of all, let us ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of listeining for the Synod Fathers, so that with the Spirit, we might be able to hear the cry of the people and listen to the people until we breathe the will to which God calls us.”

Finally, the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called upon to pronounce as “pastor and teacher of all Christians,” not based on his personal convictions but as a supreme witness of “totius fides Ecclesiae” (the faith of the whole Church), of the guarantor  of obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and to the Tradition of the Church.

The fact that the Synod always act, cum Petro et sub Petro – therefore not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro – this is not a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. In fact the Pope, by the will of the Lord, is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops as much as of the multitude of the faithful.” To this is connected the concept of “ierarchica communio” (hierarchical communio) used by Vatican II: the Bishops being united with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) and at the same time hierarchically subjected to him as head of the college (sub Petro).

As a constitutive dimension of the Church, synodality gives us the more appropriate interpretive framework to understand the hierarchical ministry. If we understand as St. John Chrysostom did, that “church and synod are synonymous,” since the Church means nothing other than the common journey of the Flock of God along the paths of history towards the encounter of Christ Lord, then we understand that within the Church, no one can be raised up higher than the others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person be “lowered ” in order to serve his or her brothers and sisters along the way.

Jesus founded the Church by placing at its head the Apostolic College, in which the apostle Peter is the “rock” (cfr. Mt 16:18), the one who will confirm his brothers in the faith (cfr. Lk 22: 32). But in this church, as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is located below the base. For those who exercise this authority are called “ministers” because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is in serving the people of God that each Bishop becomes for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi, (vicar of that Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wash the feet of the Apostles (cfr. Jn 13: 1-15 ). And in a similar manner, the Successor of Peter is none other than the servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God).

Let us never forget this! For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of the service, the only power is the power of the cross, in the words of the Master: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their leaders oppress them. It shall not be so among you: but whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:25-27). “It shall not be so among you:” in this expression we touch the heart of the mystery of the Church and receive the necessary light to understand hierarchical service.

In a Synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most obvious manifestation of a dynamism of communion that inspires all ecclesial decisions.  The first level of exercize of synodality is realized in the particolar (local) Churches. After having recalled the noble institution of the diocesan Synod, in which priests and laity are called to collaborate with the Bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community, the Code of Canon Law devotes ample space to those that are usually called “bodies of communion” in the local Church: the Council of Priests, the College of Consultors, the Chapter of Canons and the Pastoral Council. Only to the extent that these organizations are connected with those on the ground, and begin with the people and their everyday problems, can a Synodal Church begin to take shape: even when they may proceed with fatigue, they must be understood as occasions of listening and sharing.

The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Regions, of Particular (local Councils) and in a special way, Episcopal Conferences. We must reflect on realizing even more through these bodies – the intermediary aspects of collegiality – perhaps perhaps by integrating and updating some aspects of early church order. The hope of the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized. As I have said, “In a Church Synod it is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local Episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories. In this sense, I feel the need to proceed in a healthy “decentralization.”

The last level is that of the universal Church. Here the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, becomes an expression of episcopal collegiality inside a church that is synodal. It manifests the affective collegiality, which may well become in some circumstances “effective,” joining the Bishops among themselves and with the Pope in the solicitude for the People God.

The commitment to build a Synodal Church to which all are called – each with his or her role entrusted to them by the Lord is loaded with ecumenical impications. For this reason, talking recently to a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I reiterated the conviction that “careful consideration of how to articulate in the Church’s life the principle of collegiality and the service of the one who presides offers a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches.”

I am convinced that in a synodal Church, the exercise of the Petrine primacy will receive greater light. The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but inside it as one baptized among the baptized, and within the College of Bishops as Bishop among Bishops; as one called at the same time as Successor of Peter – to lead the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches.

While I reiterate the need and urgency to think of ” a conversion of the papacy,” I gladly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II: “As Bishop of Rome I know well […] that the full and visible communion of all the communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells, is the ardent desire of Christ. I am convinced that you have in this regard a special responsibility, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made ??of me to find a form of exercise of the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”

Our gaze extends also to humanity. A synodal church is like a banner lifted up among the nations (cfr. Is 11:12) in a world that even though invites participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration – often hands over the destiny of entire populations into the greedy hands of restricted groups of the powerful. As a Church that “walks together” with men and women, sharing the hardships of history, let us cultivate the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the exercize of authority, even now will be able to help civil society to be founded on justice and fraternity, generating a more beautiful and worthy world for mankind and for the generations that will come after us.

CNS photo/Paul Haring


1  Cf. FRANCIS, Letter to the  General Secretary  of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, on the elevation of the Undersecretary, Mgr Fabio Fabene. to the episcopal dignity, 1 April 2014.
2  Cf. BLESSED PAUL VI, Address for the Opening of the first Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 30 September 1967.
3  BLESSED PAUL VI, Motu proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo (15 September 1965), Proemium.
4  SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Address for the Conclusion of VI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 29 October 1983.
5  Cf. AAS 98 (2006), 755-779.
6  SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964) 10.
7  Ibid., 12.
8  FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 119.
9  Ibid., 120.
10  Cf. FRANCIS, Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 28 July 2013, 5,4; ID., Address on the occasion of a meeting with Clergy, Consecrated Persons and members of Pastoral Councils, Assisi, 4 October 2013.
11  Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), 1.
12  Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 171.
13  SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 12.
14  FRANCIS, Address at the Prayer Vigil for the Synod on the Family, 4 October 2014.
15  FIRST VATICAN  ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus (18 July 1870), ch. IV: Denz. 3074. Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 749, § 1.
16  FRANCIS, Address to the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 18 October 2014.
17  SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23. cf. FIRST  VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Prologue: Denz. 3051.
18  Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 22; Decree Christus Dominus (28 October 1965), 4.
19  SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, Explicatio in Ps. 149: PG 55, 493.
20  Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 27.
21  Cf. FRANCIS, Address to the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 18 October 2014.
22  Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, cann. 460-468.
23  Cf. ibid., cann. 495-514.
24  Cf. ibid., cann. 431-459.
25  FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 16. cf. ibid., 32.
26  Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL,  Decree Christus Dominus, 5; Codex Iuris Canonici, cann. 342-348.
27  Cf. SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis (16 October 2003), 8.
28  FRANCIS, Address to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, 27 June 2015.
29  Cf. SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, Epistula ad Romanos, Proemium: PG 5, 686.
30  FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 32.
31  SAINT JOHN PAUL II,  Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995), 95.
32  Cf. FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 186-192; Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 156-162.

Study shows key influences to Vocations – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives we speak with Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, Executive Director of the National Religious Vocation Conference about the findings of a major study on the role of families in nurturing vocations to the religious life. Sebastian Gomes also brings us inside the Synod with a summary of the 90 or so interventions and other updates, including an excerpt of an interview with Maria Harries, Chair of Catholic Social Services in Australia , and a message from Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.

Click here to read or download the NRVC Study.