Punctuation in anticipation of the synodal pathway

Punctuation in anticipation of the synodal pathway

Synodal pathway… I am not sure whether that should be followed with an exclamation mark, a question mark or a full stop!

Synodal pathway! (Exclamation mark) That could work. I am prone to overusing exclamation marks and am not quite sure why. I like them. They suggest life, a bit of fun and wonder and, I like to think, engagement. So, I think it could work there. It would be great to think that the synodal pathway would be life giving, that there would be room for fun – the bit of banter over and back until something positive emerges, and certainly there is place in it for wonder: “I wonder what will come of this?”, “I wonder will my voice be heard?”, “I wonder will I find my voice at all?”, “I wonder how open I will be to some of the items raised along the way?”


Wonder, with awe, in God’s presence is numbered as one of the seven-fold gifts so it is certain, it deserves its place on the journey envisaged by the Irish Church at this time. So, the synodal pathway! is through to the next round.

Synodal pathway? (Question mark) This seems to be a given. The question and the questioning, the answer and the answering have to be central to all that, please God, might happen in the coming years. Real questions around life, faith, worship, roles, equality, ministry, reaching out to the lapsed, encouraging the young, affirming the aged and struggling and so much more will have to be asked and revisited. The questions must be carefully prepared, prayed about and asked only if there is an openness to the answers received. Some of the answers will enliven, some will dampen the spirits, others will uplift while still more will confuse. Alongside all of this there may well be anger and frustration too, as some of the answers fall short of what some might hope for. Yes, the question mark most certainly has its place and is through to the next round.

Full Stop

Synodal pathway. (Full stop) Not so sure about that one. I am not sure a “full stop” would serve much purpose. The stop suggests lack of movement, inflexibility, closed minds, hardened hearts and no room for manoeuvre. It suggests an ending before there is even a beginning. “We are not discussing this, full stop” is hardly a good place to start any journey. Certainly, it would be a flawed way to enter a period of discussion and reflection around something as central to our lives as Church, its role and purpose in our lives. So, though it has its place, it seems to me the full stop is not going through to the next round!

But … there is always a but! The full stop has merit too. It is about stopping, standing still and assessing where we have been and where we are going. It is about slowing things down, avoiding the rush and taking a breath. Maybe we should call it back before it is too late. Still though, ‘full stop’ is so final. Maybe there are other options open to us. ‘Synodal pathway;’ or ‘Synodal pathway,’ – the semi-colon and the comma know something about the full stop too and the need to take a break, take a moment so that the text does not run away with us or from us. Without closing any doors, they each invite a more measured pace that allows for pausing and reflecting. They, in their turn, allow us to look back at what has gone before and to ease into what is to follow. Yes, the comma, the semi-colon and maybe even the colon, have earned their place and are all through to the next round.

Punctuation is one thing, important and not to be ignored, but persistence will be the key, a willingness to walk slowly, think clearly, listen attentively and speak respectfully will combine to make something real of what could all too easily be a full stop!


Another option…

I heard a story once of a man who was correcting the Leaving Cert English Paper. One student’s script was filled with page after page of text that included no punctuation whatsoever. Each answer began with a capital letter and ended with a full stop with no use of punctuation in between. The final sheet of the answer book was filled with question marks, commas, semi-colons, colons, apostrophes, quotation marks, and any other punctuation mark the student could think of and underneath was written: “Dear examiner please stick these in where needed!”