Who will you walk with today?

Faith Journey September 2023

When my children were younger, I went to a seminar about how to improve communication with teenagers. One of the hints suggested by the presenter was to go for regular walks with young people to open up non-threatening conversations.

The thinking behind this was that if you wanted to discuss something of importance, walking and talking side-by-side was less confrontational than looking at each other across the dinner table. The suggestion seemed to have merit, and it led to many fruitful conversations.

The phrase “walking together” is popping up all over the place in Catholic media, parish bulletins, statements, webinars and conferences. Many Catholics are becoming familiar with the word “synodal”, taken from Greek, which roughly translates to “walking together”. In the Catholic Church in Australia, we spent several years “being synodal” as we participated in the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia. Internationally, the whole Catholic Church is also being called to walk together through the Synod on Synodality process.

For Faith Journey readers who aren’t Catholic, synodality might be a new term. I daresay it is also unfamiliar to those Catholics who aren’t regularly connecting with their faith community. And there might even be some Catholics who are very connected to the life of the Church who are skeptical about the synodal process. Yet, it seems to me that the process of synodality has something to offer each one of us, the Church, and possibly even society.

Why? Because synodality, or walking together, is not a new concept. When Jesus walked this earth, he was a synodal person. In the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus walked along the road with two people. He listened to them – deeply. They listened to him – deeply. They asked him to share a meal. He accepted, broke bread with them, and continued the conversation. In the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), Jesus and the woman also entered into a conversation. She listened to him – deeply. And he listened to her – deeply. Her heart was so moved, she raced back to the town and told everyone about the conversation that had transpired.

In our day-to-day lives, how often do we take the time to really listen to those around us? Are our conversations interrupted by glances at the clock or our social media feed? Do we consider the need to get on with our own lives more important than accompanying our family and friends when they are in need? Could it be that the stranger on the bus or the person living on their own next door is walking alone?

Synodality. It might not be a word you have heard and that’s okay. However, I invite you now to “pause” your computer or phone and think about who you could walk with today.


Further reading:
Ormond Rush. Plenary Council Participation and Reception: Synodality and Discerning the Sensus Fidelium, 2018.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge (ACBC Media Blog). From wandering to journeying, thoughts on a Synodal Church, 2016.
Ed Condon. What is ‘synodality’? Experts explain, 2018.
Pope Francis and the Synodal Process (various documents)
Synodality with Fr Orm Rush (ACBC)
Evangelisation (Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry), 2023.

Image: Lightstock
Words: Sharon Brewer

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