After a typical full week I decided to remain in the house Friday night and today, Saturday. Having blocks of time for study/reading is difficult to find and need to be actively sought.
There is something very simple and wholesome about the Friday nights here. Vespers are prayed at 6:45 followed by dinner which usually consists of tuna salad, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, bread, soup, and vegetarian pizza. Simple, but also one of the best meals served here, in my opinion.
At 8:00 PM, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. came to the house to give us his impressions of the Synod on the Word of God that concludes officially with Mass tomorrow, celebrated by Benedict XVI. Archbishop Wuerl was one of four bishops from the U.S. delegation.
He began his talk with an overview of the history of synods. The idea of the modern synod was born out of the desire of Paul VI to continue the good discussions, deliberations, and insights found during the Second Vatican Council when all the bishops of the world gathered. Originally, a synod lasted four weeks and each bishop delegate was allowed eight minutes to speak to the entire group, then it went to 6 minutes.
Benedict XVI shortened the length of the synod to three weeks and the individual time allowance to five minutes. Archbishop Wuerl joked that the Holy Father did this after having to spend years and years listening to synod participants as a bishop and cardinal.
After gathering as an entire group for two weeks, the synod participants break into language groups of English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, and there they discuss particular statements they believe are important for the life of the Church. These statements are eventually voted upon and submitted to the Holy Father who has the task of writing a post-synodal apostolic letter. Today, the last day of the synod, the bishops will vote-in 12 members and the Holy Father will appoint 3 others to form a council whose task it is to assist the Holy Father in the creation of the apostolic letter.
Archbishop Wuerl mentioned that along with the bishops, lay men and women who are either "experts" or "auditors" fully participate in the synod, though their time allowance before the entire body, including the Holy Father, is limited to three minutes.
Archbishop Wuerl mentioned that whereas at the last synod, on the Eucharist, the Holy Father made one discussion intervention, on the link between the Passover Meal, the Last Supper, the Eucharist, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, at this synod he made a discussion intervention on the role of a historical/critical method of Scripture and the pastoral/theological exegesis of Scripture. Both, he said, are needed, but the former is a tool, at the service of, the latter.
Archbishop Wuerl was moved by the universality of the gathering, how the Church is no longer mainly European and North American in make-up, and that it is a great testament to the Holy Spirit that in a world where there exist 7000 languages and after 2000 years of history, all those participants shared the same faith, the same baptism, rooted in the same Jesus Christ.
He suspects the post-synodal apostolic letter to be issued by next year and that it will include a lengthy portion directed to priests whose task it is to preach the Word of God in the homily, a priviledged moment in the liturgy.