By Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris
During Wednesday's audience (October 7), the Holy Father spoke of how, upon calling Peter to follow Him, Jesus told the first Pope to make "fishers of men." The emphasis here is on plurality and diversity in the human family, of men and women who at the present time may find themselves marginalized, on the periphery, on the outside looking in. Pope Francis then made an affirmation that for this reason (that is, if the Church is going to bring into her fold -- into the "barque of Peter" more people, more believers), she will have to use "new nets" for this purpose.
Indeed, the Holy Father asserts that only by means of these "new nets," or shall we call them more contemporary forms of the "new evangelization," will the Church be able to come up with a "miraculous catch," hauling in all those men and women who are presently immersed in an abyss of abandonment and confusion, lacking the assuredness of those of us who belong to intact families (and perhaps we could add intact marriages). At the end of his discourse, the Pope expressed his wish that the Synod Fathers, guided by the Holy Spirit, would get rid of those "old nets" in order to become "fishers of men" with real trust and confidence in Jesus' command to "duc in altum" ("put out into the deep") -- a favorite expression of St. John Paul II.
Pope Francis concluded the Wednesday Audience by encouraging all those in attendance to pray "intensely" so that the Synod Fathers will, in fact, continue to be steadfast in the power of the Holy Spirit to get rid of the "old nets," so as to further "the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world."
In the final analysis, we are left with several important questions:
Exactly what does Pope Francis mean by the "old nets" that the Synod Fathers should strive to get rid of? And, furthermore, what exactly are the "new nets" that he believes the Holy Spirit wishes to provide the Bishops in order to be more effective pastors in our contemporary society? Perhaps, in the remaining weeks of the Synod that ends on October 25, Pope Francis will share with us clearer answers to our questions in terms that all of us can understand and appreciate.