St. Angela Merici, is the founder of the Ursuline Order of religious sisters. The Ursulines were the first order of women religious who served God outside the cloister. Today as they did at their founding in 1534, the Ursulines educate women and girls and tend to the sick around the world. St. Angela is considered instrumental in reforming the Catholic Church during the tragedy of the great Christian division that became known as the Protestant Reformation.
No one argues that the Catholic Church was in need of reform when in 1517 then Catholic priest Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses; a list of what he condemned as excesses and corruption in the Church. No one argues this because the Church was, is and will always be in need of reform. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,” at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.” Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.” The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ . . . be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 769).
Men and women throughout the history of the Catholic Church have achieved sainthood by responding to the call of the Holy Spirit for reform. St. Theresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Jean Vianney, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Francis of Assisi just to name a few.
St. Angela Merici, during the time thousands were choosing to leave the Catholic Church and follow Martin Luther and his teachings told her Ursuline sisters,
“Each one of you should first obey the commandments of God . . . Secondly, obey him who governs Mother Church, because He who is truth has said: “Who hears you, hears me, and who despises you, despises me.” And then in descending order, obedience is to be given to priests, the spiritual director, to mother and father, to the laws, statues and civil authorities.”
Today as it was then, the Catholic Church is undergoing great trials. Persecutions from the outside are numerous but more troubling to the unity Jesus Christ commanded of His disciples is the vitriol coming from within the Church. Any scroll through social media gives evidence of the divisions forming among priests, bishops, the religious, and lay faithful. But as the Catechism states, “The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials” (CCC, no. 769).
An Opportunity to Step Up and Serve
It is when these trials overburden the Church, the Holy Spirit works to form leader saints; men and women of faith who step up and work from within to reform her. We are witnessing the Holy Spirit’s call now through the Holy Father’s declaration to the Church for the Synod of Synodality. Pope Francis says,
“Synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium.”
The Pope gives three reasons why all Catholics should embrace this invitation to participate in the upcoming synodal process:
- To grow and thrive in the world we live in, the Catholic Church needs to strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission, which is why the Church of the third millennium must be a synodal one.
- The development of a synodal church will have a great impact in the field of ecumenism. The more we learn to listen and work together — with and under the pope — the better suited we will be to work and collaborate with other Christians
- The testimony of a synodal Church will have a positive impact in a world in which small and powerful groups tend to determine the fate of entire peoples.
Simply put, this Synod is to be the Church walking together so that we can all walk together!
The process of this Synod is in three phases. The current phase concluding in April 2022 is the Diocesan Phase when the Church calls on many voices to come to the table. Pastors throughout the world are calling on their parishioners to participate. For lay Catholics, this is our time to step up and respond to the Holy Spirit’s call for reform. When your pastor asks you to participate with the Synod, say yes! If he has not asked yet, ask him. Great saints are made during these times of trials of the Church . . . don’t miss the chance to be one of them!
Much of the information for this blog on Synod can be found at the Archdiocese of San Antonio website.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.