The “Broccoli Approach” to Synodality

by | Feb 4, 2022 | Formation, Reflections | 2 comments

It was one of the most popular and effective ads in the early history of television. And we probably should thank Alka-Seltzer for a phrase used by most mothers. (It seems they all went to the same “Mommy School”)

They used “try it, you’ll like it!’ when they were encouraging us to try something different. It could have been one food or another. Maybe learning a new skill such as playing the piano… or whatever.

Maybe we can call this the Alka-Seltzer or broccoli approach to life. The important thing was that we were rejecting something without trying it.  I wonder if maybe we should remember the ”broccoli approach” when we think of the “synodal process.”

Pope Francis is asking us to try something we have rarely experienced in our lifetimes… “journeying together”. However, in this case, it is not really new. Go back to the first council in Jerusalem where Sts. Peter and Paul and representatives of the people discussed the polarizing issues of the early Church. (They were more polarizing than the issues we face today!)

Journeying together

Journeying together through a lifetime can be a beautiful experience even if filled with many sufferings and crises.  Ask any couple who after 50 years of journeying together still hold hands while walking.

On the other hand, we know that journeying together doesn’t always work out. Most often couples really do not know, understand, and commit to walking with another imperfect person

God asks us to journey together.

From the beginning, God asks Adam and Eve to journey together and be fruitful and multiply. But it seems they lost sight of journeying together with God and all of creation. They became selfish. They ate the fruit of self-centeredness which God knew would make them sick… even unto death.

Then God pointed out to Israel that they were chosen for a mission. But they short-circuited what God had in mind. They eventually came to think the covenant meant only the members of the 12 tribes and was summed up in 10 commandments, 613 laws, mostly dietary practices.

Jesus came to clarify what God had in mind.

“Our Father” applied to everyone created by God.  Jesus taught them this by eating meals with all kinds of the so-called “unclean” – sinners, tax collectors, even lepers. He associated with a Samaritan woman, something unheard of on both counts of being a Samaritan and a woman.  He summarized all the law and the prophets. Love the Lord your God unreservedly … especially our neighbors (brothers and sisters)… as much as you love yourself.

Jesus prayed that all may be one. He went even further! He showed us! He washed feet and asked us to do the same in memory of him. We saw God’s unconditional love looked like as he gave his own life as the greatest sign.

The Synodal journey

Pope Francis is asking to try something new in our age – waking up to interconnectedness. We are all connected to everyone (Laudato Si“) and everything (“Fratelli Tutti).

He is asking us to try it. And hopefully, we will discover that in fact, we are all brothers and sisters responsible for our common home and like it!

The  People of God, “reveals and gives substance to her being as communion when all her members journey together, gather in assembly and take an active part in her evangelizing mission.” (Preparatory document)

Have we tried journeying yet?

  • Do we set limits on who we will travel with?
  • How do we begin to understand what it is like ro walk in their moccasins?
  • Whose voices have been excluded from the table?
  • Are we really aware of the “Good News” that everyone and everything is connected?
  • Is our heart on fire with Jesus mission to help  all become aware of this good news?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


  1. Ross

    John, I think you quoted some time ago elsewhere G.K. Chesterton’s, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

    And you say here: “Our Father” applied to everyone created by God. Jesus taught them this by eating meals with all kinds of the so-called “unclean.”

    In this regard, José Antonio Pagola recalled some 20 years ago Lumen Gentiium 16 that in part says that God is not “far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is he who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Savior wills that all humans be saved.” But Pagola immediately added, “these Council statements are one thing, but the mental habits that continue to control the attitude of not a few Christians are quite another.

    I read in Pagola’s suggestion that our “community/cultural unconscious” continue to be one of the hindrances to our trying. And if may suggest myself that such “unconscious” is also part of the reason why there is this lament from Pope Francis:

    “Have we been stuck all too long, nestled inside a conventional, external and formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives? Do our words and our liturgies ignite in people’s hearts a desire to move towards God, or are they a ‘dead language’ that speaks only of itself and to itself? It is sad when a community of believers loses its desire and is content with ‘maintenance’ rather than allowing itself to be startled by Jesus and by the explosive and unsettling joy of the Gospel. It is sad when a priest has closed the door of desire, sad to fall into clerical functionalism, very sad.”