2020 – Plenary Council Pilgrimage
Either directly or indirectly we have begun already our Plenary Council Pilgrimage in Australia. Directly – our representatives coming together in Adelaide (October 2020) and then Sydney (2021) is approaching. Indirectly – our gatherings of all those interested throughout Australian parishes and communities is now well advanced.
I can only – once again – encourage you to participate in our pilgrimage journey together, to where the Holy Spirit is leading the Australian Catholic Church in these times. How can we become a more Christ-centred Church?
Through Baptism, we all become participants in the mission of Jesus in His Church. This mission of Jesus has three aspects according to our ancient Tradition – sanctifying (priest), prophetic (prophet) and governing (King).
Much emphasis has been given to the governing (Kingly) office of Jesus’ mission. Clearly, the sex abuse scandal raises this dimension. However, even without this scandal in Australia, society’s aggressive secularism demands governing structures and foundational attitudes that are both transparent and accountable. So much of the helpful feedback so far is focussed on governance issues. We are grateful. This is surely a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
When I attended the spectacularly successful Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth (Dec 2019), it was clear to everyone that the almost 6,000 new Millennial Catholics from throughout Australia were focussing on another aspect of Christ’s Mission: the sanctifying (priestly) dimension.
The youth took for granted that the Catholic Church is to be transparent and accountable in Her governance. Yet, their incredible thirst and hunger for Jesus in Scripture and Tradition (especially our Sacramental life) was a great surprise to others.
Their insistence was for the Catholic Church in Australia to re-discover with the young a new and vibrant evangelising energy of the Holy Spirit. Just when many were surmising that the young had abandoned the Church, the opposite seems to be happening! The Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation were in great demand. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (long periods of Ritual Silence) were a highlight for many.
It is especially pleasing to know that Regional Youth movements through large parts of Australia have now reached a certain level of sophistication. Returning from national (or international) youth kerygmatic festivals youth are able now to engage in the essential catechetical formation directed at missionary discipleship when they return to their home dioceses.
During the Perth Youth Festival, the third dimension of Christ’s mission became, for me at least, manifest in a most subtle manner. It was through the considerable presence of so many youth from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. The prophetic (prophet) dimension of Christ’s mission was heard in their essential “voice” for the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.
I recall participating in several Plenary Council – “Listen and Discern Youth gatherings.” One had a good number of Aboriginal youth present. The affirming atmosphere of the festival gave them extra confidence to share openly their hopes and anxieties. Their sharings were prophetic. How can we be the Church that Jesus wants us to be without allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through this ancient culture in our midst who continue to be marginalised in our land of plenty? There was no doubt about their love of the Catholic Church and their desire to be active in Her future here in this new but ancient land.
THE HEAD, THE HEART AND THE HANDS
Pope Francis often talks about the Church’s mission embracing together the head, the heart and the hands. After all, we are the one Body of Christ. Let us avoid any fragmentation of our tri-partite Baptismal Mission of priest, prophet and King. We need a logical and pragmatic HEAD to embrace the kindly/governance dimension. We ask for a HEART that is open to the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, to a conversion, like the youth. We pray too for HANDS that are ready to serve the marginalised and prophetic voice in our midst (especially the first Australians).
This is the Plenary Council worthy of the Lord’s blessing!