"Be not afraid ... "
This is my prayer for all taking part in the synod in Rome and to those, in particular, with the power to shape not only the synod's discussions, but its conclusions.
As you prepare, I ask that you prayerfully read and reread Pope John XXIII's address with which he opened the Second Vatican Council and that you embrace his vision as well as his sense of urgency. The arc of history might tend toward justice, but it needs the help of women and men with courage, dedication, commitment -- and wisdom.
Do not let the evil of the few distract you from the goodness of the many. Do not let the defects of modern culture blind you to its blessings. The humanity and honesty of billions are living proof of the Spirit's abiding presence, the Father's faithfulness.
As you seek pastoral solutions to the major issues facing the People of God, remember that Jesus' message of meekness, humility, simplicity and selflessness -- what he taught his disciples during his last supper when he washed their feet -- is arguably more relevant today than at any other time in history.
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Speak words that lighten burdens. Admit past mistakes -- the church's complicity in slavery, usury, unjust wars, colonialism, the suppression of human rights.
Offer hands of help and healing to those willing to assist, whatever their faith, race, culture, tongue, sex.
Listen a lot. And only occasionally speak.
Beware the blindness and arrogance of false prophets who see the speck in others' eyes while failing to notice the beam in their own.
Finally, remember Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Sargent Shriver, Cesar Chavez, Jacques Maritain, Yves Congar, PierreTeilhard de Chardin, John Henry Newman -- all the women and men, too many to count, who have gone before us marked with the sign of Christ's cross and are now enjoying the everlasting reward of their labors.
[Michael E. Allsopp is the editor of Ethics & The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1999) and the author of Models of Christian Ethics (2003) and Renewing Christian Ethics: The Catholic Tradition (2005).]