How can we as Catholics better embody the mercy of God in the way we live out our faith in the world?
Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a religious order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola. One characteristic of Ignatius’ way of proceeding is the discernment of spirits – what Ignatius called the ‘motions of the soul’. The Spiritual Exercises that he formulated were aimed at making people become more aware of the movements of the Holy Spirit within them – reflecting on them, understanding where they come from, and where they might lead.
If we are to be God’s Church in the world, then we need to make space to listen to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works on us through our relationships with each other, so we have to make space for those relationships to be entered into. Where there is difference, where there is pain, there is a need for conversation.
At the Synod on the Family, Pope Francis began an unprecedented worldwide conversation in the Catholic Church, in an attempt to find answer questions on how we can continue to preach the love of God, while remaining witnesses of that love to those who’ve felt marginalised by the Church on various issues.
Going into that sort of conversation, with no pre-conceived outcomes, required a deep trust in the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak to our Church’s leaders. These conversations might not always end in a perfect resolution – people’s hearts might not always be open to the movements of the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit cannot work without that conversation taking place.
In this edition, we enter into a number of different areas of conflict and discernment in the Church, in the spirit of starting some of these conversations in our communities. It’s easy to say that we need conversation, and then expect others to listen to us and be converted to our view.
However, if the Holy Spirit is to work, all of us must be open to its movements in our conversations. No matter where we ‘think’ we’re coming from, a true conversation means being willing to examine our own conscience.