The topic of community is a hot one where I live, especially as it relates to the Catholic community amongst those of us that live in the small neighboring cities in our remote and vast state. Without getting into the tangles of the Catholic climate here, it suffices to say that there are factions, fractions, and problems where we live. I am not naive to think that this is somehow unique to only our area, but because the area is so small everything is magnified to an n-th degree. All that being said, there is still a desire and requirement that those of us committed to an orthodox understanding of the faith, to “build” a Catholic community for our families.
The idea of a Catholic community is essentially a group of people with similar virtues, beliefs, and understandings of the culture and world around them that all live and interact together in a fairly committed way. The center of this community is Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the virtues stem from the true and authentic teachings of the Catholic Church. It is Catholicism 101 meets “Living the Catholic Faith 201″. This doesn’t mean that it is an exclusive community to non-Catholics, but that the primary focus of cultural and social interaction occur within this group. It only makes sense. Doesn’t it?
Normally I wouldn’t hesitate or question my own theories, but a group of us in our area have found ourselves in that conundrum: second guessing our firmly rooted beliefs of Catholic Living because of the difficulty in achieving results. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some defeatist group of people, or a group that only does something when the weather is right. This is a situation where decades have passed, attempts of all scales and kind have been made, and yet there is still a lack of any real “forward movement” that has been made toward the ultimate ends.
Many of us continue to pursue this goal for many obvious reasons, first and foremost though because our Faith is central to our lives, and if we really wish to live out an authentic Catholic life and have any hopes of heaven let alone canonization, we need one another to be “Our Brother’s Keeper” for our own sake. So we try, try, and try again to forge something out of some rather shoddy stock.
The reason it is so important to have a true Catholic community to interact within, isn’t to isolate ourselves from the world out of fear, but to create a community home much the way we create a “Home” out of our domestic houses in order to center and solidify our family virtues with society. The parallels between our Catholic community and our domestic home are many. Most significant in these similarities is that we aren’t constructing something to shelter and keep hidden that which we are, but to strengthen, grow, and solidify who we are so as to best prepare our family to go out into the greater world and culture and be an example of the Gospel through our actions and who and how we are as individuals.
The problem is that sometimes you aren’t always living in a location that is conducive to creating this type of community, at least not to the extent that you would like. Sometimes the hard decision is leaving somewhere that seems ‘GOOD’ in order to find that community, or the sense of it, in order for the betterment of your family. While talking with another Catholic Dad recently, we acknowledged that things like childhood Catholic friends, an immersion into the culture of Catholicism, “crushes”, and other experiences with similar minded friends is important. There is a loss of Catholic ‘Culture’ in this world and the only way to foster it, is to create communities where it can flourish and grow.
For those of us that aren’t currently in that situation, which I would count myself, our job is to then try and create this community. Parishes used to be in walking or commuting distance for families. If you moved somewhere new, you moved NEAR the Church so that you would be around the community of Catholics. Again, this isn’t about exclusionary thought, it is about including the faith into every-day-life. We must be intentional and mindful of how we pass the faith on to our children. Teaching the faith isn’t only about Catechisms and Canons, but it is about living the gospel in a specific and methodical way. It is about creating a culture of the Gospel through our actions.