A Lent of Listening

Pondering what penance I might do for Lent, I stumbled on the Pope’s recent reflection on a synodal Lent: Listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church.

Hello again!

Late on Shrove Tuesday, with a journalist’s fondness for deadlines, I was still pondering what penance I might do for Lent this year. Like many Catholics, I have often used Lent for a bit of controlled martyrdom. In years gone by I drank nothing but water, avoided sugar entirely, even swapped my smartphone for an old Nokia brick.

But nothing was hitting the right spiritual note for this year, until I stumbled on the Pope’s recent reflection on a synodal Lent.

This passage jumped out at me.

Let me say something else, which is quite important for the synodal process: listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church.

Now listening is hard. I love my wife and children dearly, but do I sometimes tune them out despite it hurting them? I do. In my working life do I often brush past trusted colleagues’ words to get to what I want to say? I do. And you can imagine how little I listen to those I don’t respect or care for.

So my Lenten penance this year is just to listen, really listen to what others are saying to me, especially those who I’d like to ignore.

But I’ll swear off the Ice creams as well, just to be on the safe side.

So in that vein for this edition of the newsletter I’ve picked out some recent pieces from the Synodal Times that cry out to be listened to.

Germany is where some of the synodal debates have become most heated. And just this week four delegates resigned from the Synodal Way process. They alleged that organisers were not listening to the Vatican.

The process had repeatedly ignored “interventions and clarifications from Vatican authorities and the Pope”, the delegates wrote, Further participation in the Synodal Path would mean supporting a course that would obviously drive the Church in Germany into isolation within the Universal Church.

However, even in Germany, there are positive examples of listening. A new book

from Professors Helmut Hoping and Magnus Striet, conservative and liberal respectively, attempt to find a way through the divides.


The 140-page treatise entitled “God, Friend of Freedom” shows why the debate has become so deadlocked – and why voices from Rome keep ringing out in an attempt to put the Germans in their place.

The big news among online Catholics this week has been the further restrictions on the Old Rite Mass put in place by Pope Francis. Without opening that whole can of worms there are thoughtful and faithful traditionalists out there and Robert Nugent is one of them. I learned a lot from this interview with him, and this quote touched on something he’s not alone in feeling.

“I’m not here to divide the Church or cause hurt or pain, but I was taught that we had a deposit of the Faith and I was brought up to say that this is a deposit of the Faith and this is what it means to be Catholic and all of a sudden I’m told no: That’s actually not what Catholicism is anymore.”

Not all will agree, but a funny thing about listening is the more you do it, the more miraculous the results can be. That was my thought reading this profile of Bishop David O’Connell who was tragically murdered last week.

Funny thing about Bishop Dave. He was tough to interview because he didn’t like to talk about himself. But he did tell me how, on one occasion, he found two dead bodies in the parking lot of St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in South L.A. When he was appointed pastor to that parish in 1988, during the crack-cocaine epidemic in the area, there were killings in the neighborhood every night, he said.

“I’ve been part of the people’s lives and been there during the suffering of the young people who have lost their lives so many times, but I haven’t had any problems,” he said. “I do believe what’s really important is for us to be out in the neighborhoods, to be out with the people.”

That was a man who knew how to listen. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Now If you liked this, please recommend it to a friend. If you are that friend you can subscribe to the newsletter here. And if you really liked it you can support our work here.

And if any of the above sparked a stray thought, hit reply. I’d love to hear from you.

God Bless, Ian

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