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How to have Conversations in the Spirit? Steps towards a Synodal Church | Synod on Synodality

Julian Paparella

Monday, October 23, 2023

iStock image by VictoriaBar.
Throughout the Synodal Assembly here in Rome, a new method is being used for the first time. It’s called conversations in the Spirit, maybe you’ve heard of it already.
It’s a practice of inviting the Holy Spirit into our conversations, so that He can unite us amidst our differences and diversity, helping us move from “I” to “we” – not to erase our uniqueness but to bring us together in the harmony of being brothers and sisters in Christ at the service of others.
By personally experiencing conversations in the Spirit, the hope is that participants in this Synod will be able to reflect with greater insight on how God is calling the Church in today’s world to be more capable of listening, discerning the needs of our times, and acting accordingly in the light of the Gospel.
Anyone can use this method of conversation in the Spirit, not only here in Rome but throughout the world: in our parishes, dioceses, communities, and even in our families. The method can be adapted according to the circumstances and situation. It can be especially helpful when there is a decision to be made, for which we need God’s guidance. Conversations in the Spirit can also be immensely helpful when we are facing a conflict or disagreement. God can help bring us up over the impasse, opening up a new way forward where we thought it wasn’t possible.
Conversations in the Spirit start with a specific question that we would like to discern about. For example, how can our parish be more missionary? Or as a diocese, how do we create more unity among our parishes? Or as a family, where should we send our children to school? Once we have our question for discernment, here are some basic steps for having a conversation in the Spirit.
First, it can help to prepare yourself personally. Entrust the conversation to God, and reflect in prayer on the question for discernment, also reading the Word of God for some inspiration. Speak with Jesus about the question at hand. Ask God to guide you and the whole group to follow His will.
Second, listen to the Word of God together as a group. Choose a passage from Scripture that is fitting for the question at hand. Pray together, sing together. Be united in God.
Third, at a table or in a circle, each person then has the opportunity to share what God has been saying to him or her about the question being discerned. If the group is too large for everyone to have time to share, you can divide up into smaller groups. During this first round of sharing, each person has his or her own turn to speak without being interrupted by any other member of the group. One after the other each person shares until everyone has had a chance to speak. Then there is a moment of silence so that what others have said can resonate with us.
Fourth, we go around the circle again, and each person has the opportunity to briefly respond to what struck him or her about what others shared in the first round. Then there is a time of silence again, to listen in our hearts to what has been shared in this second round.
Fifth, the last stage of the conversation in the Spirit is a free exchange among participants, dialoguing with one another on the basis of what has emerged in order to discern and gather together the fruit of the conversation in the Spirit that has just taken place. We recognize points of commonality between us, as well as differences between us. We try and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as a group so that we can move forward in a common direction. We ask ourselves: “What steps is the Holy Spirit calling us to take together?” And finally, we conclude with a prayer or song of thanksgiving to God.
For more details and resources on how to have conversations in the Spirit, check out the Working Document for the current Synodal Assembly, also known as the Instrumentum Laboris in Latin. Also go to or visit for many helpful materials.
Holy Spirit, come and ground our conversations in you so that we can discern the path ahead and move forward as a Synodal Church in our parishes, dioceses, and families. Amen.

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