By Sarah Callahan
Gray Space Graces
Here in the Midwest, we are blessed with the privilege of having four seasons. There is a profound beauty in each season but, at the same time, each season comes with its own discomfort. As Iowans, we are witnesses to the peaceful snowfall of winter and the gray wintery-mix that slows traffic. We enjoy the fresh smell and joy that comes with spring but not so much the wet, muddy footprints that get tracked into our homes. We feel the warmth and playfulness of summer while bearing the muggy heat and bug bites.
Now, we have entered autumn, my personal favorite season of the year. We enjoy cool mornings, the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of the leaves, the cozy sweaters, the bonfires, the apple picking and the pumpkin pie! Yet, autumn too brings with it discomfort. The days become shorter as the sun sets earlier. It becomes more difficult to get out of bed when the alarm goes off and the moon is still aglow outside. As the air becomes colder, I know there are fewer and fewer pool days, golf games and long outdoor walks in store for the year. I know that the beautiful colors I enjoy also mark the death of things. The autumnal colors will eventually become dull browns covered with frost and snow. Yet, the death of autumn, which can be beautiful in and of itself, also comes with the promise of new life in spring. It can be uncomfortable, yet it can also be profoundly beautiful.
The General Assembly of the Synod began on Oct. 4. The Synod on Synodality, as a whole, has brought about many conversations and questions that can be quite sensitive. As a result of this dialogue, naturally, tensions have surfaced in our Church. Many of us are concerned that as a result of the Synod, the rich teaching of our Church will be altered to not reflect the Gospel truly. So too, many of us are concerned that after the official Synod concludes in 2024, not enough will change and we will just go back to the way we were before. These are both real concerns.
My hope, for those of us who worry of a break from tradition, is that we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us down a path that is fruitful and that we can listen authentically to our sisters and brothers who don’t feel welcome in the Church. My hope, for those of us who worry that the Synod will not change enough, is that we trust that when we follow Jesus we are on the right path and that we can listen authentically to our sisters and brothers who love our tradition and worry of a veering from it. Like autumn, synodality can be quite uncomfortable at times and yet it can be profoundly beautiful.
Another happening in the Church that occurred Oct. 4 was the publishing of an addendum to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si.” The new apostolic exhortation is named, “Laudate Deum” (Praise God), and addresses humanity’s failure to properly and promptly address the climate crisis. Pope Francis writes, “eight years after Laudato Si … I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point” (LD, 2). Pope Francis explains the dire situation of our planet’s environment, which is impacting not only nature but also our sisters and brothers on the margins, and how we must act now in the care for our common home to slow down the degradation of our earth.
To control the damage that pollution, fossil fuels and overconsumption has been doing to our planet and people, we must make sacrifices, which are small sufferings in comparison to the affliction we face if the earth’s temperature continues to rise at its current rate. We can make a difference. Pope Francis writes, “there are no lasting changes without cultural changes, without a maturing of lifestyles and convictions within societies, and there are no cultural changes without personal changes.”
I have faith that if our human family can work together to care for our common home, we can make real and lasting change. Like autumn and synodality, being responsible stewards of the earth can be quite uncomfortable at times, yet it can also be profoundly beautiful.
As the seasons change, so too may our hearts — to become more loving, to welcome in tenderness, to let the things that need to die, die so that the things that must live, may live.
(Sarah Callahan is social media coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.)