Each day of the synod retreat at the Fraterna Domus retreat center Oct. 1–3 begins with morning prayer and concludes with Mass. Benedictine Mother Ignazia Angelini offers two daily meditations, as does Radcliffe, with the afternoons set aside for “group meetings for conversation in the Spirit.”
Australian Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay gave the homily for the Mass on Oct. 2 and Canadian Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme–Mont-Laurier preached at the Oct. 1 Mass.
“The world is in need to see a Church thriving to be faithful to unity. Therefore, the search for unity must be put into practice on a daily basis,” Poisson said in his homily.
“The synod we are undertaking is like a school in which we learn to listen to one another … Let us be a Church with open arms like those of her Lord on the cross and let us become true witnesses of God’s love for the world.”
Radcliffe also underlined the need for unity in his meditations on the second day of the retreat, urging participants to “leap across the boundaries, not just of left and right, or cultural boundaries, but generational boundaries, too.”
The 78-year-old British priest reflected: “Many religious and priests of my generation grew up in strongly Catholic families. The faith deeply penetrated our everyday lives. The adventure of the Second Vatican Council was in reaching out to the secular world. French priests went to work in factories. We took off the habit and immersed ourselves in the world. One angry sister, seeing me wearing my habit, exploded: ‘Why are you still wearing that old thing?’”
“Today many young people — especially in the West but increasingly everywhere — grow up in a secular world, agnostic or even atheistic. Their adventure is the discovery of the Gospel, the Church, and the tradition. They joyfully put on the habit. Our journeys are contrary, but not contradictory. Like Jesus I must walk with them, and learn what excites their hearts,” he added.
He encouraged synod delegates to befriend one another and to openly “share their worries and doubts.”
“The foundation of all that we shall do in this synod should be the friendships we create. It does not look [like] much. It will not make headlines in the media. ‘They came all the way to Rome to make friendships! What a waste!’ But it is by friendship that we shall make the transition from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ Without it, we shall achieve nothing,” he said.
Radcliffe commented a few times on how he expects the media will interpret the synod. He said: “During our synodal journey, we may worry whether we are achieving anything. The media will probably decide that it was all a waste of time, just words. They will look for whether bold decisions are made on about four or five hot-button topics. But the disciples on that first synod, walking to Jerusalem, did not appear to achieve anything.”
The priest described the synod retreat as an experience like the Gospel experience of the Transfiguration, which he called “the retreat Jesus gives to his closest disciples before they embark on the first synod in the life of the Church when they walk together (syn-hodos) to Jerusalem.”
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He said that the hope that the disciples glimpsed on the mountain in the transfigured Lord “makes the conflict between our hopes seem minor, almost absurd.”
“If we are truly on the way to the kingdom, does it really matter whether you align yourselves with so-called traditionalists or progressives?” he added.
“Let us ask the Lord to give us hope, too: the hope that this synod will lead to a renewal of the Church and not division; the hope that we shall draw closer to each as brothers and sisters,” he said.