Hope in the Lord — News From Rome

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. To follow his blog, go to www.archlou.org/archbishop-kurtzs-synod-blog/.

Thursday, October 11

Yesterday we had our first gathering of the small groups and one of the first duties was to elect a moderator and a reporter. I am very pleased that Cardinal Napier was elected our moderator, and I am humbled to be elected the reporter.

The work of the reporter, which I’m told is not necessarily an enviable position, is to summarize the proceedings of the small groups, to formulate our propositions, and to present the propositions from our small group to the full assembly of synod delegates.

At times, it seemed like an overwhelming task to come up with new directions in light of all of the information and perspectives that we have received. Then I heard Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams speak. His reflection led me from the frenzy of human activity to a calm and serene stance of contemplation. He spoke of seeking the humanity of Jesus Christ as one who turned his loving gaze to his Heavenly Father. In this, we find that Christianity and the deepest sentiments and aspirations of humanity come together. How important it is to be filled with confidence in the Holy Spirit directing our minds and hearts!

The propositions to be presented will need to reflect that serene openness to the Holy Spirit. Central to the proclamation of the new evangelization is the deep experience of the joy that grows as we come closer to experiencing that loving gaze of Jesus. Such a gaze is best developed through private and personal contemplation, communal prayer, and honest sharing in the context of the great gift of sacred Scripture and the tradition of the Church.

Saturday, October 13

Later in the afternoon, Synod delegates attended a presentation on science and faith. Dr. Werner Arber, from the University of Basel in Switzerland and an active member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, made a presentation on recent developments in the science of evolution. Science begins with curiosity, and, done well, this enterprise uncovers the basis of natural law. While evolution answers many questions, it does not answer the “root” questions. These questions, according to Dr. Arber, are in the realm of philosophy. Dr. Arber spoke of the role of the church as an evangelizer of culture. In this role, religion and science are not enemies. While some picture religion and science as walking on the same road, but in different directions, the task of evangelization is for religion and science to walk hand-in-hand.

Thus, my horizons on the new evangelization and its far-reaching aspects continue to emerge, and I am coming to see the great dimensions of evangelizing culture that are part of the Synod.

Wednesday, October 17

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” The gospel on this feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch points to martyrdom for the sake of Christ, a witness for every age.

The Synod on the New Evangelization is about this faithful witness to Christ. A credible proclamation of the Gospel in our own age is weak when such sacrifice is absent. Indeed, the unity of the church that we seek comes about through the power of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, who freely gave up his life for us.

This morning I am putting together the notes to be used in our small group tomorrow, which involves gathering together all of the scraps of paper that contain themes from these last 1.5 weeks of dialogue and interventions.

Sunday, October 21

It is Sunday morning here in Rome, and the Synod on the New Evangelization continues. I have not been able to write a journal entry since Thursday because the pace and responsibilities of this adventure have picked up speed. In the last days, our small groups met in earnest. Then on Friday morning, each of the 12 small-group relators presented to our Holy Father and Synod delegates a 10-minute summary of our deliberations. When I was interviewed yesterday by a reporter from The Tablet in the United Kingdom, I reflected on those 10 minutes. Had I simply written the text on my own on the plane to Rome, it would have been a dramatically different presentation.

Hearing the voices from every corner of the universal Church has expanded my thinking and the prayers from my heart. Thus, I began my presentation with the words: “The New Evangelization begins with prayer — and with simplicity and humility — for the task is not human work but the work of Jesus Christ.” My time of prayer has been more fruitful, and I ask you, the reader, to beseech the Holy Spirit to lead us again to Jesus, and through his power, to announce the good news with the humility and zeal of the first apostles.

Tuesday, October 23

We now begin the important phase of carefully examining the propositions that are being developed. As we begin this process, I am reminded of a theme — the thirst for God and for all that is true, good, and beautiful — that was prominent at one of the focus groups prior to my coming to Rome: the 40 young adults who talked with me after the Mass at Holy Spirit Church in Louisville. This theme also is very prominent at the Synod on the New Evangelization.

It is clear to me that the new evangelization is not simply a new program. Rather, it consists of uncovering the thirst that is already present in our hearts. The desire for lasting truth, goodness, and beauty leads the searcher along the path of life, and we see this search in the lives of the great saints. May Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, be announced once again to answer that thirst!

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