The women and men of the threshold

The women and men of the threshold

Just concluded the other day, this synod was the ‘Synod of Already’, and not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a ‘not yet’ that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Il Messaggero di Sant'Antonio on 09/11/2023

The current Synod is one of the most beautiful novelties of Francis' pontificate, the fruit of his ability to grasp the signs of the times. The way it has been prepared and the way it is unfolding is clearly a blessing for the Church (and not only the Catholic Church). There is reason to rejoice, and from many points of view. Not least because of the new presence of lay people and women that makes this church assembly a truly historical event. Let me just make two small comments to this beautiful page that is being written. They concern the nature and skills of the delegates. Indeed, if one scrolls through the list of participants, along with the satisfaction felt over the rich composition and charismatic biodiversity, one is also struck by the absence of certain components. It is always easy to look at a reality and search for what is missing, because there is no human reality in which something is not missing. So this exercise of mine must be taken as such, with all its limitations.

The Church, and not only the Catholic Church, is in the midst of a great process of change, one of the greatest and most radical changes in its history, which can be compared to that which followed the collapse of the Roman Empire (5th century), that is, the Church in the time of Augustine and Benedict, when a secular world was collapsing without another one having been born. Today, a world - Christianitas - is going down, and there is no other world for the churches in sight. We are in for a long Holy Saturday. The Second Vatican Council was an extraordinary event, but, as Dossetti said, one problem with that providential assembly was to conceive itself still within the era of Christianitas, that is, not to understand collectively that a long history was coming to an end, even though the churches were still full. Those full churches were a ‘curse of abundance’, because that sense of richness prevented the Council Fathers from grasping the emptiness that was smouldering under the ashes.

With the onset of the 21st century, we can no longer think of the Church, faith and religion as we did in the 20th century. The Church, in some countries, still has a vitality of its own and the churches are not completely empty, but we must be very careful that this ‘half-empty’ (and not totally empty) state does not play the role that the full churches did during the Council years. And to understand the signs of the times in a world with almost emptied temples, it is not enough to have theologians, bishops, nuns, priests, consecrated persons, who are the majority of delegates. We need entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, teachers, social workers, scientists, artists, poets: those who are living this massive dark night of Christian life from a perspective ‘outside’ the institutional Church. These characters are the main sentinels of the dawn that may come. And there is a particular need for real young people, under 30, who are, it seems to me, the other great absentees from the Synod. Because in every great expectation, there hides the expectation of a child, of the new inhabitant of the world that is being born. From Samuel to Jeremiah, the biblical prophets were all young when they began their vocation.

What is taking place is the ‘Synod of Already’, the assembly that photographs the Church today; it is not the ‘Synod of Not Yet’, a not yet that in the life of the spirit is always essential, but especially when one world is ending and we do not yet see another. When there is a need for the eyes of the sentinel, of those who stand on the walls and speak of what is outside to those who are inside, and of what is inside to those outside. The women and men of the threshold. It is on the threshold, on the border places that a resurrection is already taking place.

Credits foto: © Giuliano Dinon / Archivio MSA


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