When I drive by Serenity Funeral Home on Bannister Road at Troost Avenue on my daily commute, I think of Frank Costanza from Seinfeld fame. In one episode, Frank sought to master interior peace through the spiritual mantra, “Serenity Now.” But since Mr. Costanza was notorious for creating emotional havoc through thunderous outbursts, volatile impatience, and unpredictable tempests, he never did achieve his desired state of peace. Instead, his “serenity now” utterances grew louder and stormier, becoming a warning cry for battle, chaos, and uncontrollable discord—with an exclamation point! Unlike most humans, he was not a suitable candidate for interior serenity or exterior peace.
As Pope Francis and the global church participate in the process of synodality that will take many years to manifest, lots of Catholics who shared in its initial listening sessions in 2021 look to the Vatican Synod in the fall of 2023 knowing that subsequent papal direction will come back to us in 2024 and ‘25. They don’t want their synodal voices to fade through the process or to get lost in time; they proclaimed heartfelt issues that could, undoubtedly, redirect the church onto more vivacious paths and renewed spirit. Many who participated observe the mass exodus from ecclesial settings, especially young people who’re turned off by restrictions, rubrics, protocols, and prohibitions. Concerned for this state of affairs within the church, they cry out “Synodality Now!”
As we anticipate a synodal attitude that gains shape in the years ahead, we can usher it in by practicing it without delay. The Holy Father has named some indicators of synodality that we would do well to incorporate into our encounters in real time. Among the synodal signs is operating from a mindset that is active (not complacent) and that accentuates our common ground and common good (rather than our differing ideologies and personal judgments). Another mark of moving in a synodal direction is found in the number of ways and times that we call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us through significant issues and questions we face as individuals, families, communities, and as parts of the Body of Christ. Still another indicator of adopting a synodal existence is listening and learning from one another while we also listen and learn from God’s sacred wisdom by welcoming it into our conversations, communications, and problem-solving endeavors.
Other illustrations include increasing participation in communal prayer, especially Mass that anchors us, where we seek and receive nourishment from Christ, providing greater honesty in our institutional faults—like sexual abuse, abuse of power, self-protection, and lack of transparency—so that we can heal wounds, welcoming more grass-roots decision-making from God’s people instead of relying on parliamentary or hierarchical methods that exclude lay voices and further separate us, and embracing inclusive attitudes that draw us closer to one another and to the Holy Spirit.
Rather than shouting “synodality now!” let’s put into daily practice attitudes and behaviors that can help us become what we desire. Excepting those rare human persons like Frank Costanza who do not possess the capacity for a life of serenity or synodality, most of us can move toward a better place with greater peace.