As in earlier synods

The Synod on the New Evangelization ended on Saturday [October 27, 2012] in Rome. Something like 260 bishops (and 400 total participants) assembled from every continent. Their deliberations occasionally rose to real insight and eloquence. The pope [Benedict] himself seemed pleased – which should count for a lot in anyone’s book.

A bishop is a shepherd, and has two large responsibilities: 1) the good shepherd makes sure to feed his sheep; 2) he also keeps the wolves away, and warns the flock where the wolves lurk.

The bishops know this. And unless you’ve spent time yourself struggling to communicate the Word in the modern world or faced the many challenges they do, everywhere, every day, it’s only right to get behind their efforts.

But one way to help them along is to add what we can to carrying out this massive task – in a spirit of collaboration. So a few post-Synod observations, since even a Catholic sympathetic to the whole undertaking may feel a little disappointed at what seem unfocused results.

Despite wide-ranging aims, there’s an awful lot that seems missing. Most significantly, the documents and proceedings rarely seem animated by what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., once called “the fierce urgency of now.” And he was only talking about the Vietnam War; the bishops are dealing with the eternal destiny of souls.

That’s evident in the forty-five “Propositions,” the final document passed by the Synod and passed on to the pope as he prepares the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Cardinal Dolan remarked that the Synod participants wanted to make its other closing message (“to the People of God”) “positive, uplifting, evangelical” – generally a good approach in the modern world. But the Church needs something more if it hopes to cut through our cultural pandemonium.

It may not be easy for the bishops to say openly, but our situation in a secularized world is not, as the Synod “Propositions” claim, “similar to that of the first Christians.” The early Christians lived in a pagan society untouched by the Good News.

Our culture is deeply shaped by rejection of that News and by a sustained effort to live life on explicitly non- or even anti-Christian grounds.

If we are not absolutely clear about that, much effort will be simply wasted.