This morning, Sunday, I attended an anniversary Mass of a person I had known. Yesterday evening I had been reading an article about the Synodal Process, and had been, as always with me, attracted by the theme of the Warsaw gathering, that lovely phrase from Isaiah, “Enlarge the space of your tent”, and I have been encouraged by the efforts of Francis to do that.
The priest who celebrated the Mass had a different tune. Using his interpretation of the readings of the day, in almost every sentence he narrowed the space in the tent. By the time he was half way through his homily I felt decidedly outside. And it was clear from what he said that those on the outside faced a very dire prospect in eternity. The only consolation was that when he was finished I knew that I would not be short of company on the outside. (As an old fellow said at the back of the church one morning after Mass: “I’d like Heaven for the climate, but Hell for the company.”)
But that wasn’t all. When he came to the Prayers of the Faithful, which in this case were clearly his prayers with no input from the faithful, he used them to make further statements. He had a go at the politicians, and especially those in government. That is not too unusual in churches, though liturgically it is not to be encouraged. But the next body he had a crack at were, amazingly, the German bishops, suggesting that they had better return to the true Faith. The funny part of that was that as I left the church some people who knew me came over and asked: “What was that about the German bishops that he was giving out about?” The nuances of the Synodal Process were clearly well outside their range of knowledge and interest. And of course I could understand from what I had heard that the people of that parish probably had heard little or nothing about the process, much less been encouraged to be a part of it.
As I drove home I listened to the news on the radio, and heard about the archbishop leading the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, and that the theme of this year’s climb was to pray for vocations to the priesthood. This particular tent (priesthood) that was prayed for was definitely not enlarged. It was the traditional male version of priesthood. No space in that tent for married people, and definitely not for women. It even had a further narrowing that I had never heard highlighted before. They were praying only for vocations to the diocesan priesthood, not to the religious communities. I wonder why.
All in all, I’ve had a morning in which it is difficult to be hopeful about the Francis agenda, and especially his efforts to bring about a Synodal Church. I look forward to the football final.