WASHINGTON (OSV News) ─ The months leading up to the October world Synod of Bishops in Rome offer an opportunity for the faithful "to live more intensely our response to divine grace," the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said May 31.
The time of preparation for the synod "reminds us the unique experience of Christ in the sacraments is a gift to be shared," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, the conference president.
"The knowledge of God obtained in our study, our prayerful attentive listening to the Word of God and the voices of others ... is not self-serving, but pushes us forward," Archbishop Broglio said in his homily at a Mass offered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory was the principal celebrant of the Mass.
The feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who in her advanced age was pregnant with John the Baptist. Pope Francis requested that on this feast day, special Masses be offered at Marian shrines throughout the world for the synod.
"We come to this Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to join our prayer with those in Marian shrines throughout our nation and the world to beg the maternal protection of our mother for the deliberations of the general assembly of the Synod on Synodality," Archbishop Broglio said.
The Synod of Bishops -- bringing together bishops from around the world to meet and consult with the pope -- will be held in two parts: the first from Oct. 4 to 29, 2023, and the second scheduled for October 2024. The Synod on Synodality, with the theme "communion, participation and mission," is a three-year process of listening and dialogue held on local, national, continental and global levels. It began in 2021 and will conclude next year.
"We pray in this significant moment -- united with the church throughout the world -- to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to cover us with her mantle and to lead us forward," Archbishop Broglio said.
More than 100 people attended the midday Mass that was concelebrated by Father Michael J.K. Fuller, general secretary of the USCCB, and Msgr. Walter Rossi, the shrine's rector.
"Mary's Shrine, together with the USCCB, is responding to the request" from the pope that "Marian shrines throughout the world today" celebrate "a moment of prayer" in preparation for the synod, Msgr. Rossi said. "We also invoke the intercession of Our Lady for the success of the synodal journey."
Archbishop Broglio called the feast of the Visitation "a meeting of the Old and New Testament" because it was "the meeting of the protagonists in the final months before the birth of John and the birth of Jesus." He said that the feast day also illustrates that "the discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is missionary. She goes forth in charity to physically bring Christ to another. That is fundamental for us."
"At the time of the visitation, the Blessed Virgin Mary's life was just turned upside down -- she was with child herself ... she sets everything aside and responds to another," he said. "She realizes an initial mission of the first Christian. She teaches us fundamental concern for the other. Her example is more important in our self-centered world than ever before."
At the end of Mass, Cardinal Gregory led the faithful in a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit's protection over the upcoming synod.
us the way we must go and how to pursue it ... do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path," Cardinal Gregory led
the faithful in praying. "Let us find in you our unity so that we may
journey together to eternal life."
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Richard Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Washington.