Disclaimer: I love the Catholic Church. I love being Catholic – and hold a deep love and reverence for the entire Christian community, despite painful divisions that still exist. What follows are simply jumbled thoughts on a matter very dear to me. A matter that we Christians ought be be honest about, own our mistakes, and work together on a new way forward.
Giving undue influence to others’ opinions, joining gangs, joining cults, leaving the Church, joining the Church, tolerating toxic friendships, adopting certain views and beliefs, abusing drugs – both illegal and pharmaceutical, abusing alcohol, engaging in random and illicit sexual behavior, going down certain career paths, pursuing/abandoning certain goals… the list goes on of what people will do to satisfy their longing for authentic community. Many, in their current state, feel undeserving of the love and friendship found within authentic community, but their thirst for it is so strong, that they are open to compromise in the name of acceptance. Please understand that I am not referring to the presence of sin in one’s life – which does indeed cut us off from our fellowman – rather, I am referring to the innate human desire to belong and the lengths – even sinful lengths – people will go to in the name of being a part of a community. Community is everything. I think – to the extent that the local Church has failed in cultivating community as one of its main priorities – it neglects its primary vehicle for transmitting the Gospel. Without the pursuance of real and lasting community among its adherents, the Church nullifies her salvific mission. Too often people enter the doors of the Church looking for community and are subsequently blessed when they end up finding God in the process. We must think then, because of the way in which community within the Church is too often found wanting how many people actually miss out on God. Where community is stagnant, or ill-quenched by pre-formatted, follow along, mass-produced 6-,10-,12-week programs and social events that never move its attendees past the point of casual acquaintance, people will turn elsewhere. You can’t buy community from a publisher. It doesn’t have a finite end-date from the beginning. Community is messy, it is vulnerable, it demands the giving of oneself – the very thing most of us seek to protect. We tolerate this neat, sanitary, pseudo-community that demands nothing of us apart from our attendance and lackluster engagement. Even then, we can only tolerate it for so long before “life just gets in the way”. Let me assure you, people never abandon authentic community because life, or other priorities, have taken precedent because real community seeks to transform our lives and our priorities. Saint Paul likened this community of the faithful to the Body of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that the first followers lived in common with one another, owing to the community the very context of their lives. Christianity apart from community doesn’t make sense. Have we lost sight of this truth? Have we forgotten that community is everything?