Yes, I have read it, but confess to skimming over sections that contained repetition because a few small groups dealt with 2 questions instead of 1 question.
In advance I apologise for how brutal my assessment of this document is.
As I read each page, I did expect something fresh and surprising to galvanise me with enthusiasm. Because that’s the hallmark of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is full of fresh vitality and loves to surprise us with new solutions to old problems and cause all of us to say, ‘Yes! Aha! That’s it! How come we never thought of that before? That’d actually work! Count me in!’.
What I did find were:
lots of personal agendas
lots of special interest group agendas
lots of human solutions, most of them anything but fresh,
lots of expensive requests for best practice research
expectations that formation will solve everything
expectations that better resources will solve everything
expectations that national standards will solve everything
expectations that things are quite OK, with a grudging openness to minor tweaks
So I conclude that the majority of participants were unable to relinquish their own agendas and their own pre-conceived notions.
I further conclude based on the complete squashing of the notion that ‘when considering the success or failure of educational facilities that the percentage of graduates who have become missionary disciples while at that educational facility really matters’ – that really listening to each other didn’t happen.
Listening to majority opinions happened; but listening to minority opinions not so much. Sometimes the voice of the Holy Spirit is in the consensus, (Acts 6:5, Acts 15:23-29) but sometimes the voice of the Holy Spirit is in a Daniel. (Daniel 13:41c-62)
Here are some interesting statistics:
In the document, the Holy Spirit (the One we were supposedly listening to), was mentioned 15 times, and 5 of those times were in the 9 Oct 2021 Concluding Statement.
Family was mentioned 33 times; families 19 times.
Evangelism and Evangelisation were mentioned 31 times.
Formation was mentioned a whopping 163 times.
Several proposals are good, but of the kind that cannot be imposed from without, and can only happen through people anointed by God, in His timing, to make them happen, eg a religious order dedicated to the care and healing of the abused and traumatised.
What we have is a list of very well-intentioned human solutions.
Yet all the questions considered by the Plenary Council small groups were based in Evangelii Gaudium 27
27. I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”.
And none of the questions considered the source of a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything.
Missionary impulses do not come from man,
they come from God.
Pentecost, (Acts 2), was a missionary impulse that changed everything.
Another missionary impulse that changed everything happened in Acts 4:23-31.
The conversion of St Paul (Acts 9:1-22) contained a missionary impulse which changed everything.
Likewise the conversions of St Augustine of Hippo, St Francis of Assisi, St Dominic, St Ignatius of Loyola and St Teresa of Avila changed the world, and are still changing the world.
The missionary impact of Our Lady of Guadalupe is still changing the world too.
None of these Plenary Council questions considered how to practically cope with the results of a such a missionary impulse (Isaiah 54:1-10).
People who believe that God is initiating a missionary impulse do make room, do enlarge the size of their tents, do spread their tent cloths wider, do lengthen the tent ropes, and secure the lot firmly with tent pegs.
If you really believe that God is going to send you a deluge of rain, then you stock up on umbrellas and gumboots, and you get extra water-tanks, you increase the capacity of your dams, and you clean out the gutters and fix the places that normally leak.
What, sincerely, do we need to do to prepare for a massive missionary impulse?
For example what would need to change if you had 3000 people show up at the parish office in one day; 1200 needing confession, 300 begging for deliverance, 500 begging for baptism, 700 wanting to know how to serve God better and do effective penance, 400 begging to become Catholic/do RCIA, 300 seeking explanation for the weird spiritual experiences they have been having, and 300 wanting to donate goods and large sums of money as evidence of their repentance to God?
What if that happened every day for a month?
Or for 3 months?
What if the numbers of the spiritually needy kept increasing each day?
My proposal is for the 2nd Assembly of the 5th Plenary council to spend half its time in prayer begging the Holy Spirit to grant such a missionary impulse to Australia, and to spend the other half of its time earnestly seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit for how to both effectively plan and respond to the results of such a missionary impulse.
Then we might see this land truly embrace its destiny of being the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit - and see that longed for missionary impulse happen.
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I think that is under-estimating the Holy Spirit and there are numerous historical precedents.
Pentecost, when 3000 were added to their number, is the first precedent.
But we’ve also seen in recent history the extraordinary pulling power of St John Vianney and St Padre Pio, people came from all over the world to see and experience the holiness of these men, and their God-given gift of reading souls.
We’ve also seen the numbers of people who continue to flock to pilgrimage sites like Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje.
Even 30 spiritually needy people in a day would overwhelm the resources of an average parish office, and 300 spiritually needy people per day even more so. But 3000 is mild by Holy Spirit standards.
Our parish is rather average. About 25% of the people in the area might culturally identify as Catholic according to Census records. That’s around 10,000 people, and pre-pandemic we were getting 5-10% of them at Mass each weekend. Could a wave of Holy Spirit power bring 3000 of them to the parish door in one day? Yes, He could, easy-peasy.
You could ask, why doesn’t He? Many parishes have fire evacuation plans, and In Case of Emergency kits. But how many of them have In Case of Revival resources and plans? How much capacity has your parish to welcome and respond adequately to spiritually needy people? If you could only adequately cope with 10, and 300 came to the door, how many of the 290 would persevere until they were helped? How many would walk away? How many would begin doubting that the experience of God they had was real? How many would never return?
After the first Divine Renovation conference in 2014, the parish office in Halifax was getting something like 100 phone calls each day from all around the world asking for more information and asking specific questions. It was to meet that need, and to allow parish staff to attend to parish needs, that Divine Renovation Ministries was set up.
Have a read through some of these accounts of Holy Spirit activity, often called revivals:
The Welsh revival 1904-1905
The revival lasted less than a year, but in that time 100,000 people were converted.
The Azuza Street revival
The core membership of the Azusa Street Mission was never many more than 50–60 individuals, with hundreds if not thousands of people visiting or staying temporarily over the years.
The 1859 Ulster revival
It has been reported that the revival produced 100,000 converts.
The 1859 Welsh revival
It is estimated that as many as 100,000 new converts were added to the Welsh nonconformist churches in the year in which the revival burned most brightly.
The Cane Ridge revival
It was estimated by military personnel that some 20,000 to 30,000 persons of all ages, representing various cultures and economic levels traveled on foot and on horseback, many bringing wagons with tents and camping provisions.
The Jesus People movement
Unlike many other Christian movements, there was no single leader or figurehead of the Jesus movement. Many of the 80,000 young Jesus People attended Explo '72, an event organized by Campus Crusade for Christ.
The Brownsville revival
During the revival, nearly 200,000 people gave their lives to Jesus, and by autumn of the year 2000 more than 1,000 people who experienced the revival were taking classes at the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry.
The Toronto blessing
Charisma Magazine reported that an estimated 4,000 churches in England and another 7,000 churches in North America had been impacted by this new revival movement
As the song goes….
God can do it again, and again, and again,
He’s the same God today as He always has been
Yesterday, now, forever
He’s always the same.
There’s no reason to doubt, God can do it again.
With the Holy Spirit, the arrival of 3000 spiritually needy people a day is more than possible.
But are we ready, willing and expectant for the missionary impulses He loves to bestow?
We do have to do our bit, and work on increasing our capacity to receive His missionary impulses, locally, regionally and nationally.