Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Taking up a journey together

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

On Sept. 18, as bishop of Rome, Pope Francis offered a reflection on the synodal process he has initiated as a means of renewing the church in our time.

The Holy Father is asking the universal Catholic Church to take up a journey together to reflect on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.” Pope Francis has called this a time of “mutual listening that involves the entire People of God. But this listening is not about garnering opinions, taking a survey, but listening to the Holy Spirit, as we read in the book of Revelation: ‘Whoever has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches’ (2:7).”

The word “synod” says it all: It means “journeying together.” As such, everyone has a part to play, for we are all gifted with the Spirit of Christ. It begins by each of us being in touch with the inner restlessness in our hearts.

There is always something missing in our lives. We all want to grow, and we want our church to be more responsive to the needs of its people. We should value this desire as a gift from God, who is a God of surprises. We should not be afraid of the challenges we face, the questions we find hard to answer, but instead be prepared for surprises, for Christ the Risen One is alive and active in the church and always doing something new.

The church has been following the promptings of the Holy Spirit from its earliest days, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter receives a disturbing vision in which he is told to eat things considered unclean. He then goes to the house of Cornelius, the pagan centurion, who also has a vision that God would hear his prayers.

This was a pivotal moment, for now those who were not part of the Jewish faith could be recognized as being called by God to become disciples. Peter was hesitant, but the Spirit intervened in a way that represented a new moment in the Christian faith. As the pope observed: “The Spirit overcomes Peter’s resistance and opens a new chapter of missionary history. That is how the Spirit works.” 

The story of salvation has repeatedly revealed God working in unexpected and new ways. The Holy Father recalls the story of Balaam as an example of how God’s plan will not be thwarted. Balaam failed to listen to God’s word because he was intimidated by the king, Balak. Because Balaam refused to defy the king, as God told him to do, the donkey he was riding spoke out in his stead. The point is that God’s Spirit will not be impeded.

“It is a story that teaches us to trust that the Spirit will always make his voice heard. Even a donkey can become the voice of God, can open our eyes and change our course when we go astray. If a donkey can do that, how much more can a baptized person, a priest, a bishop, a pope do it? We need but rely on the Holy Spirit, who uses all of creation to speak to us: he only asks us to clean out our ears, to hear better.”

We should have no doubt, the Holy Father tells us. “The Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to him by listening to each other. Leave no one behind or excluded.” We are “not strengthened simply by reforming structures or by giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, by issuing guidelines and programs. All those things are good, but as part of something else, namely our rediscovery that we are a people meant to walk together, with one another and with all humanity.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago will join this journey in the first phase beginning this fall. I have asked Msgr. Patrick Pollard and Father Louis Cameli to help us undertake this listening. (See story on page 5.) We will provide more information about the synodal process in the coming weeks and months.

We will kick off our participation at a special Mass on Oct. 24 at Holy Name Cathedral, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. While all are welcome, we have invited members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Women’s Council, as well as religious, deacons and diocesan priests who are on the Presbyteral Council. These various groups will look for ways to engage the entire church of Chicago in the synodal process.

I ask that all pray for the success of the synodal process, and for our efforts in the archdiocese. Chicago has a proud history of contributing to the life of the universal church, and we should not hesitate to once again step forward and be true to that proud legacy.

Pope Francis’ reflection on the synodal process can be read at



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