Hope in the Lord — Greetings from the Eternal City

The following are excerpts from Archbishop Kurtz’s synod blog in which he reflects on his experience as a delegate to the Synod on the New Evangelization.

Sunday, October 7, 2012:
Greetings and blessings to you from the Eternal City! This Sunday morning I had the pleasure of joining in a special outdoor Mass celebrated by our Holy Father to mark the official opening of the synod and at which two saints were declared doctors of the Church — St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen.

The real work of this three-week long synod — called the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” — begins tomorrow morning. The signal that the work of the synod has arrived for me was the assignment of my seat and my badge. Tomorrow, I begin the process of listening to many five-minute presentations as we all seek themes to hold up for our Church as we announce again the good news of Jesus Christ. On Tuesday, I will submit my own intervention on the “Blessing of the Child in the Womb.”

Our archdiocesan Why Catholic? theme of “Pray First” was brought home to me in the writings of St. John of Avila, the saint who was made a doctor of the Church on Sunday. This 16th-century Carmelite was quoted as saying that trying to please God without prayer is like swimming with one arm or walking on one foot…My prayers are with all of the Why Catholic? groups that began meeting in the last week.

Monday, October 8, 2012:
This Synod on the New Evangelization is a “new song” to the world from the Church, which is announcing anew Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This morning, this theme of a new song struck me while praying the Office of Readings before Mass.

The beautiful prayer after Psalm 96 captures so eloquently the grace of Jesus Christ as the One who is guiding the synod. “Your Church throughout the world sings you a new song, announcing your wonders to all…”

In an article on my participation in the synod that appeared yesterday in Louisville’s local paper, which nicely expressed the major themes of the synod, I read that a national commentator expressed the fear that the synod would be simply “…the Catechism of the Catholic Church with a smile.” While at first I dismissed this comment as a bit cynical, the comment came to me in prayer this morning and then again during the sessions of the synod.

If not for Christ, the new evangelization would simply be a human activity and indeed susceptible to a distant and shallow smile, with no change. However, with Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews), the truth of Christ is proclaimed, but in a way that calls us to a deep smile that flows from the joy of his revelation….

Sitting in the sixth row, I found myself very close to the speakers and quite absorbed in the presentations…. It is simultaneously overwhelming and intriguing to experience the rich tapestry of voices from every corner of the world.

We heard witnesses of struggles with religious liberty, no stranger to the United States these days, from so many parts of our world. It reinforced the importance of our commitment to be courageous announcers of the good news of Jesus Christ as well as good citizens…

Please continue your prayers as I bring the intentions of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Louisville with me to Mass and daily prayers.

Wednesday, October 10:
It is 5:30 a.m. here in Rome, and I am about to start my holy hour before morning Mass.

Lumen Gentium is the title given to Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The story is told that Blessed John XXIII pointed to a globe of the earth and announced “lumen gentium,” meaning that Christ Jesus is the “light to the nations.” The Church, of course, has as her primary mission to proclaim Christ to the nations…

Yesterday, I read about a study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that reported a rise in the percentage (from 15% to 20%) of the “nones.” Nones are those who claim no religious faith… It has been observed that our culture makes it a bit easier to take this position publicly, but I suspect there are searchers for the truth among this group..…Yesterday at the Synod, I heard again about the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” being promoted as a means of outreach to searchers with no religious affiliation.

I have been thinking about two ways to contribute to this outreach. The first was suggested to me when I met in focus groups with about 40 young adults a few Sundays ago at Holy Spirit Church in Louisville. A number of these 20-something adults reminded me not to fear inviting them to Christ and to the fullness of Church teaching. One said it clearly: “We are listening and want to hear.”

The other way is a follow up of my intervention yesterday at the synod… I called for a generous use of the “Blessing of the Child in the Womb…” Expressing how this blessing allows the Church to “warmly extend the love of Christ to families as they prepare for the birth of their child,” I hailed this sacred gesture as a way to announce to society the great gift of human life, as well as a gracious invitation for parents to begin preparing for the baptism of their child, once born.

I pray that our work in the synod will concentrate on reaching out and not simply waiting for these silent searchers to come to Christ, the “light for the nations.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

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