Saturday, October 13, 2012
It is getting more difficult to choose the best experiences to write about, but I would like to share two from yesterday.
At 1 p.m. after the morning session of the Synod, our Holy Father invited Synod delegates to come together for pranzo (lunch) in honor of the bishops who had participated at the Vatican Council II. This video by Salt and Light of Canada describes very well the preparation for that meal, as well as other features of the Synod:
The Vatican Daily Bulletin will report the wonderful speech of our Holy Father, but what won’t get coverage is the table at which I sat and ate. This table was a microcosm of Church in the modern world and the rich tapestry of the Synod. My table companions included the Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity (now in Calcutta, though a native of Germany and the successor once-removed of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta); the Archbishop of Lesotho in South Africa; the Archbishop from Bolivia (who was of Polish origins) and another from the mountains of Peru; one from Holland (who studied at Catholic University of America); a professor from Santa Croce in Rome; and a Filipino Archbishop whose Archdiocese totals nearly 4 million Catholics. We mainly spoke in English, but there were some Spanish-speakers. I thank my friend Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio for his presence and for the easy way he translated the conversation when I got lost!
At the table, we spoke of everything from Church to culture to Synod happenings. Mostly there was that laughter and joy that marks followers of Jesus Christ! There will be many public propositions coming from the synod deliberations, but these encounters will not make the headlines. Nonetheless, they are important tiles in the mosaic of this Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.
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. He reminded us that people of faith have a belief in God, but atheists also have a belief in the nonexistence of God. He spoke of the cultural values of science, which enrich our world view and open the world to innovations that shape the future. Essential to the task of addressing these questions in the philosophical realm is the call for a clear assessment of scientific advancements to ensure that the “progress” is truly good and ethical.
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. I had the encouragement of Frs. Tom Boland and Pat Dolan back home to be attentive to science and its relationship to faith and the new evangelization, and here it is before me now.
All of these discussions remind me that our faith is deeply personal, but it also is public. Jesus calls the baptized to renew the face of the earth, and we do so by proposing, not imposing, our values and convictions.
Today is a full day of Synod sessions that includes Mass and an evening meal at the Casa, the house for doctoral student priests from America and the original home of the North American College.
Thank you for your continued prayers and good wishes.