Welcome to Becoming Synodal. This is a retreat for your parish or for a small church group. It is designed to introduce you to the practice of synodality, to give you opportunities to practice synodality amongst yourselves, and to develop between yourselves an atmosphere of community where synodality might flourish.

Opening Prayer

A: Creator of the world, eternal God,
B: we come together from our own places for a little while.

A: Redeemer of humanity, God with us,
B: we have come with all our differences seeking common respect

A: Spirit of unity, go-between God,
B: we have come with stories of our own to a place where stories meet.

A: So here, in this space, let us take time together. for when your people gather and stories are shared, there is much to celebrate and honour.
B: In your name, three in one God, pattern of community. Amen.

Adapted from “Iona Abbey Worship Book”, 2001. copyright © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. wildgoose.scot. Reproduced by permission.

Don’t worry if you are unsure of what “synodality” actually means. We will come to that! Suffice for now to say that Pope Francis thinks it is very important. He wrote:

This process was conceived as an exercise in mutual listening. I want to emphasize this. It is an exercise of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the Church and involving the entire People of God.

This is important: everyone has a part to play. The Pope, the Cardinal Vicar and the auxiliary bishops are not more important than the others; no, all of us have a part to play and no one can be considered simply as an extra.

This is essential: if Christians do not feel a deep inner restlessness, then something is missing. That inner restlessness is born of faith; it impels us to consider what it is best to do, what needs to be preserved or changed. History teaches us that it is not good for the Church to stand still (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 23). 

“A large, majestic tree, full of wisdom and light, reaches for the sky.”

“A sign of deep vitality and hope, it symbolises the cross of Christ. The horizontal branches, opened like hands, carries the Eucharist, which shines like the sun.”

“The branches are also outspread like wings, symbolising the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit over the whole Synodal process.”

This video is produced by the London Jesuit Centre. Austen Ivereigh welcomes and introduces us to the Synod taking place in the Roman Catholic Church 2021-2023. We suggest you watch it together, and then whoever is leading you can answer any questions you might have.

If you have time, you might like to watch the whole series of these talks, alone or together, at https://londonjesuitcentre.org/synodality-course

The Format of the Becoming Synodal retreat is quite simple. It is designed to be carried out over a number of weeks. Part 1 (3-6 weeks) is about coming together to learn to be synodal. Part 2 (not yet written – you might like to contribute to that yourself – more on that later!) is about putting that synodality into practice within the local Church.

Ideally you will be able to put aside 20 minutes or more most days to explore and pray with the retreat resources, but don’t worry if you are unable to commit that amount of time. Glancing at the resources whilst you are on a bus ride or waiting for an appointment; keeping a significant phrase or question in mind whilst you are jogging or doing the household chores – these are all great ways of engaging with the retreat.

Each week has its own theme page including some Scripture, some advice from Pope Francis, some other commentary/resources on the theme, and a number of questions for you to ponder during the week. If you are especially rushed for time, then some of the resources are marked with asterisks * or * *. these are the most relevant bits for your meeting that week so best prioritise them in the time you have.
Top and tail of the pages are short liturgies for the week. You can use them on your own at the beginning and end of each day of the retreat, before and after you settle down to spend some time with the resources, or at the beginning and end of your weekly meetings together.

The weekly meetings are an adventure in a renewed way of being together – a renewed way of encountering each other within the freedom and grace and welcome of Spiritual Conversation. Join together in the opening liturgy and let yourselves be open to the Spirit. Then use the questions and the resources on the weekly theme page to share your thoughts and ideas and doubts and experiences from the previous week. Listen to each other. You may choose to have a plenary where you draw the thoughts of the whole group together. Then finish with the closing liturgy, giving thanks for all that you have shared.

There is no “end goal” to the retreat, you are not trying to reach a finishing point. It is all about the journey with each other, meeting and sharing together in a way which is safe, open and welcoming; creating a space where you can hear yourself, and where each one can be heard.

We suggest you spend some time together this session sharing a little about yourselves, your experience of this Synod so far (it may be none – that is fine!) and your reasons for joining the retreat. If there is still time left, it might be usefully spent glancing together through the materials for next week so that you get a feel for the format of the retreat.

We very much hope and pray that you enjoy this retreat, embrace its challenges, open yourselves to the spirit of synodality, and that it encourages you as a parish community. God is with you in this journey together. +

Closing Prayer

A: As we continue in our retreat together, in this day and in our lives
B: May we be grateful for the blessings of this day, today and each day.
B: May we be grateful for the new stories and new ways of thinking we have explored, today and each day.
B: May we be grateful for kind company, heedful to God, heedful to ourselves and heedful to each other, today and each day

A: God from whom all gifts come, who shares our adventure, and delights in our friendship
B: We thank you for your presence with us as we continue in our retreat this day, and each day of our lives. Amen