Listening as a Form of Prayer


by Robert Feduccia

We are just a few weeks away from the Synod 21-24 at the Vatican where the Holy Father is gathering lay and clergy, young and old, women and men together to discern where the Lord is moving and how we can respond to the Lord’s movement. There are many strong opinions on the Synod, some fear that the Church will change, some fear the Church will not change. We must remember, though, that the call of discipleship and our call to ministry is to always be in aposture of listening, surrender, and trust in where the Holy Spirit is leading. We can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us, without worry or anxiety, because, as we heard a few weeks ago in the Gospel, “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against us.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. – Galatians 5:18

St. Paul reminds us that Christian life is not simply about following new rules. It is about following the Spirit and being transformed to think like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and live like Jesus. This is a spiritual work. Discernment requires prayer and it requires knowing Jesus.

The Church beautifully calls us to discernment when it says that “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (Gaudium et Spes). This is not a sociological task. This is a spiritual task. First, we as ministry leaders are to know the Gospel. We are to have the Word of God dwelling within us to such an extent that the Word flows out in our speech, our thoughts, and in our actions. We can’t not interpret things in light of the Gospel. It is who we are and we embody the Word. We are to pray in and with the Word.

Part of that prayer is listening. This is the first part of the quote mentioned above. The Latin word scrutinium means to search and to inquire – this is the job of the ministry leader. We are to seek out. To inquire. To listen. For ministry leaders, our work is not our prayer. But our work should be prayerful.

I recently was leading a focus group with young people who were one week away from celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation. It was powerful for me to hear their answers, but it was also transformative for them to be asked questions and to be heard as they answered. I questioned why I hadn’t done sessions like this earlier with them. It was as transformative as any lesson. The act of listening is prayerful both for the hearer and for the speaker. When we listen in prayer, lives are changed. This is the purpose of Synod 21-24.