November 15, 2019

“My” Synod

Vatican Synod on the Family

The title of this article is a giveaway. Each member of the Archdiocese of Detroit must consider the Synod to be held November 18-20, 2016 as “his, her Synod.” It boils down to proven love or lack of love for the Church to which we belong by God’s calling. We all claim to love God and to love Jesus very much; but this claim might be simply a repeated attempt at silencing our conscience unless it is tested. And here is a reliable test: this assertion is only a pious delusion unless we truly love the Body of Christ, the Church, with the same intensity. And, for the sake of clarity, the part of the Body of Christ that we are called to love first is the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Nobody should allow thoughts of disengagement or semi-indifference to cross their minds. Nobody should emit a sigh of relief for not having been selected as one of the three persons chosen from each parish of the AOD to participate directly in the Synod. Nor should those chosen worry about what to say, what kind of contribution they could possibly provide in such an intimidating, lofty venue filled with scholars and experts. Lest we forget: the source of love within the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit, the very bond of love between the Father and the Son that is so strong and so all-encompassing as to be the third Person of the Holy Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit who should be invoked in earnest by every single Catholic in our archdiocese. It is the Holy Spirit that will fill everyone with genuine love for the Body that is intimately united to and inseparable from Christ the Head. It is the Holy Spirit who assists us in our prayer for the success of the Synod.

If you recall, about a year ago, Archbishop Vigneron gave us all the charge of reciting often the prayer for a “New Pentecost.” That and any other prayer for the transformation of our archdiocese is a most powerful means of creating miracles of all sizes and of achieving the desired renewal. But it should not be a perfunctory action done to check one more box on our daily to-do list. The prayer that the Holy Spirit inspires is a prayer sprung from genuine love; it comes straight from our heart or, even more so, from our gut. For those who are still unclear about the nature of this prayer, let me state that it has to possess the same sincerity and passion of those prayers we addressed to heaven for life and death situations in our families. And it has to be a prayer done in the certainty that we can move on with our Christian life within this segment of the Catholic Church because the request is according to the will of God.

I feel the need to remind all of us that without the Holy Spirit we can do ridiculously little; we cannot even state that Jesus is Lord. Yet, we ought to be very careful if we abandon ourselves into the powerful and unpredictable wind and fire of the Holy Spirit! Recall, please, what happened at the first Pentecost, how a bunch of scared disciples became such bold witnesses to the resurrection that they imbued themselves with the Gospel and then preached it everywhere, even to the ends of the earth—and at the highest personal cost. All of them died a martyr’s death!

For practical purposes and to remain rooted in reality, it would be a tremendous blessing if we all let ourselves be jolted by the Holy Spirit out of our comfort zone, out of our quiet routine, past religious stagnation and spiritual lull.

If in honesty we were to look deep inside our hearts we would find out, perhaps with a high degree of embarrassment, that our love for God and our Lord Jesus Christ is much less than what we have led others  to believe; and our love for Christ’s Church might be so little that it could border on non-existent.

We should realize that our archdiocese, too, is ailing, is hurting and needs an influx of new energy and the enthusiasm once so visible in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles.

Now, if you read what has been published on the AOD website and in printed form distributed to the different parishes, you, too, will see how we received many good suggestions on how we can or, rather, on how we all MUST contribute to the success of the Synod.

Hence, I limit myself to the following suggestions:

Ignorance of Holy Scripture is ignorance of Christ, St. Jerome would say. Our love for Jesus and, inevitably, as a direct consequence, our love for his Church increases dramatically if we get to know him and her by becoming familiar with Holy Scripture. However, our education and formation based on Holy Scripture must be founded and enlightened by the correct interpretation provided for us by those whom Christ appointed as our shepherds (Magisterium). A correct catechetical education will set ablaze in us love for Christ and for his Church. This will be done individually and as Christian families, all with reassuring energy.

Then, our whole family will be transformed and its members will make the right choices in the light of the Gospel. This reshaping inspired by the Good News will take place in harmony and agreement with traditional values and common sense. Christian families so formed become then a powerful weapon for the preservation of decency and natural law. Anyone ruled by integrity, unaffected by secularism, equipped to resist relativism and enlightened by the Gospel can be engaged in defending a traditional family setting and in treasuring it for the future of our western world. This will prove a timely and effective way of preaching.

Unless you just flew in from outer space, you are bound to have noticed that perverse ideologies have undermined the very core of society and how common sense has been replaced by political correctness, which is an elegant form of madness, hell-bent on replacing reality with unrealistic, destructive and outlandish concepts. Clearly, if we cannot show noticeably, boldly, unapologetically that our family is a truly Christian family based on the sound principles set by our Creator God and by nature, we cannot expect to be effective evangelists.

Supported by the grace of God, i.e., the Holy Spirit in our Christian family living, we shall be equipped with all the tools we need to “unleash the Gospel.” You know already how much I love that term “unleash.” It conveys the idea of a force that has to be set free to do its assigned work.

The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek.” Romans 1:16

Of course, since we are still unfamiliar with the unrestrainable vigor of the Holy Spirit, we might be hesitant to go out on the mission of preaching the Gospel. Or, if we decide to give it a try, we might come up with man-made “sweeteners” and well-thought-out arguments to make our message more palatable and give it a chance to be accepted or given some consideration. But that would be a repeat of the ancient mistake of thinking that we are more than simple, docile, trusting tools in the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most crucial point of my article. My fellow missionaries-to-be, the power is built-in the message of the Gospel and this power cannot be resisted. If we fool ourselves into thinking that success depends on our skills and knowhow, we are in for dismal failure. Actually, the Gospel is a collection of crazy, insane, unreasonable, outlandish, impossible statements and shocking paradoxes. Place yourselves at the receiving end of a missionary such as St. Paul, who preaches Christ crucified, who rejoices in making up with his/her sufferings what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, who proposes the philosophy of a grain of wheat that has to rot in the ground to bear much fruit, who suggests that those higher-up are to serve the rest, that every follower of Christ has to deny his very self, pick up his cross and follow Jesus, you would find no reason whatsoever to hear him/her out. The list of paradoxes and impossibilities is endless and if we could overcome acquired familiarity with these shocking statements we would realize that billions of people across the centuries did embrace them and tried hard to live by them in spite of their unreasonable proposals. Consider this without getting into the inscrutable mind of our God who is so madly in love with us that, in total humility, he makes himself completely vulnerable, wholly accessible, absolutely at our disposal in a little wafer. In the Eucharist there is entirely nothing stemming from human power of persuasion enabling one to believe this impossibility. Faith and acceptance, as always, are strictly the direct work of the Holy Spirit.

May the Holy Spirit find each one of us ready and willing to consider this truly “his/her Synod” for the good of our archdiocese and the glory of God.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin

REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.

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Written by Fr Dino Vanin
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