The Catholic Church possesses a venerable tradition of adventurers, voyagers and knights errant. The noble impulse to explore reflects a thirst for the true and the new, a characteristic of the Holy Spirit.

We now see the Crusades as problematic since they sadly employed violence. But crusaders were also early Christian adventurers, surveying a world that was home of Scripture yet utterly unfamiliar. They learned spiritual practices, including those of the Desert Fathers, who revived the church’s contemplative movement.

The Age of Exploration saw missionaries trek to Asia, Africa and the Americas. Again, their zeal seems troublesome to modern sensibilities, but their efforts spread the Gospel and helped the church embrace wisdom from many cultures.

Father Jacques Marquette, Father Pierre De Smet and even our own Father Francis Blanchet set off into the unknown to bring the Good News and encounter Indigenous peoples whose devotion and energy shaped our American church.

Adventuring churchmen are not a relic of the past. We think of Holy Cross Father Jim Schultz, a University of Portland professor who died in 1987 when climbing a 14,000-foot Colorado peak.

Even today, local priests like Dominican Father Corwin Low, who just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, revel in expeditions. Father Pat Donoghue has spent months in rugged terrain hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. These hearty men bless those they meet, but invariably talk about the things they learn from others.

In short, adventurers give, but they also receive. The church almost always benefits when her people head for the horizon.

We imagine clergy and laity in space and cannot wait for the result. But right now on Earth, this season of synodality is an exploration bent on discovering what the Holy Spirit is asking here and now, but also in the future, the greatest frontier. Let’s embrace synodality with that old Catholic spirit of adventure.