Where Do I Find Community?

Oct 29, 2013 by

I received another phone call last night from a lady in Virginia. This is one of many such calls and emails from people around the world who seek community. They are all asking themselves the same question: Where do I find community? However, I think that sometimes people have a skewed view of community. When you start diving into searches in Catholic Forums you start to see this idea of intentional community. While I am not against intentional community….its history is problematic. Whenever a group of people or families decides they will live together in a semi-common life, problems arise. One family thinks that no television should be allowed. Another thinks that meals should be in common on these nights. And yet another thinks that all females should wear dresses at all times. Yet, none of these ideas are community. In fact, it is these types of ideas that destroy community. Community is not something that is created by a set of dictums. These dictums act more like rules in a jail. It is not the rules themselves that form community within a prison, but rather opposition to said rules. Let’s look at community formation in a different light.

Families are meant to be free to be families as they desire. This is why there is no such thing as familial religious life. The history of those who have joined in such endeavors is clouded, and it often results in the breakdown of the Faith, which is typically the thing most desired to preserve. Community is not made by human hands, rather it is developed by the hand of God. In a sense, if we seek to make a community of our own desiring, then we will destroy the very thing we desire. Rather, community develops as a sort of accident… as a cumulative result of many such accidents. If two families live near one another and experience enough joys and hardships together then community is formed. It is not a result of set of rigorist rules, but rather a common walking together towards a shared end goal. We have experienced this with our friends who moved here this June. Their initiation into rural life involved a Biblical type plague of grasshoppers annihilating a large portion of the crops on which we and they were to depend both for sustenance and for income. Through that shared suffering community began to form. We have no rules that our two families are bound by. We live physically close to one another, and thus we share a common life by simple association. Prayer times together, leisure time, work time, etc. are made by proposition rather than bound by regulation. Freedom allows community to develop, and suffering together binds those strings. It is the cross that is the glue of Christianity, so any Christian group seeking to develop community must expect to hang upon the gibbet together. There, like the good thief, we are bound to our Crucified Lord and made a member in the body of Christ.

So it is that we develop community here on the Plains of southern Kansas. This is not the place I would have chosen to do this, but God was the chooser. Those who have joined us here, and those who seek to join us were not a select group of closely knit friends. Rather, God has brought us together through the most unlikely chain of events and circumstances. Our community is only intentional in the sense that we intend to live in a common physical area. There we desire to raise our children amongst other like-minded Catholics. In a world where we cannot love our neighbor because we don’t know his name, we desire to build a place where we can truly love our neighbors, even if that means hanging on a cross together. So it is that we find community exactly in those places that we don’t seek it. This community develops almost by accident under the direction of the hand of God.

I think many would escape their surroundings in order to “find community.” However, I’m not sure that such a person will ever find community. It is best developed where one is. If one is unable to “find community” where they are, then it won’t happen anywhere else. Love your neighbor and invite him or her over for supper. Have a game night with locals your age. Find commonalities and then let God build upon them. True Community is not gated! Maybe this is the message we should most take from our current Holy Father. Sometimes I feel like I am just a leper at the head of a leper colony. My own sinfulness seems to be expounded at times in the presence of others, but it is also here that we are able to confront our true selves. We realize how selfish we are only in the presence of others. Such we realize also as we add filled spots at our family dining table. I, like others who contact me, asked the question: Where do I find community? However, community is not a place, it is a realization of charity. It is built up by suffering, and nourished by Faith. If you want to find community then love your neighbor so that you can suffer with them. If you want to find community then help them fix their roof, or help them rake their leaves. In answer to the question of where do I find community? You find community right where you are.

 

Pax,

Kevin

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9 Comments

  1. Casey Truelove

    Would intentional communities be like the GMOs of communities (as opposed to the “organically” formed communities)? Well, maybe not . . . they’re not intrinsically evil, they just don’t tend to turn out well.

  2. Genevieve P

    Kevin, this is a wonderful post! You stated so clearly so many of the things that I have thought over the years. Having grown up in a New Age intentional community, experienced several organically formed communities, and then most recently spent several years near Clear Creek Abbey, what I always tell people is, if you really want Catholic community, don’t set out to form it too intentionally – instead, find a monastery, church, Catholic university, apostolate, or some other reason why Catholics would congregate somewhere and get involved there. That way the community is happening naturally, and there isn’t this forced feeling of “we have to be together! We have to MAKE a community!” It’ll just happen naturally because you’re pursuing common endeavors together, without constraints, and each family is free to make individual choices, instead of some trying to force a set of rules on the others.

    Casey, I like your analogy! 🙂 Maybe it’s like regular non-organic vs organic crops – the non-organic crops still have nutritional value, but the way they’re formed doesn’t tend to be sustainable in the long run, and they aren’t nearly as healthy for you. 🙂

    And hey, there’s always Michigan if the Biblical plagues come too often! 😉 (Just a plug to see the Trueloves more often 😉

    God bless you guys! It’s great reading about your work there in your farm updates. Prayers for many graces and blessings through the hard work and suffering!

  3. Brian Ring

    I think you hit it on the nose that an intentional community built on the idea that one family has any say in the rules of another family will, almost always, fail. If you think about how God made “the family” it seems only natural that anything other than God’s way is going to make your life much more difficult! Another way I think about it is in thinking about how God has a plan of what would be the best vocation for everybody, but allows you free will to choose your own path and you can be holy in any path but God’s path would be the easier path to holiness.

    Also, love the point that you should find community where you are, well said.

  4. A. Martinez

    Great topic and essay! I like the distinction that you make between intentional communities and natural communities. The growth and change of a natural community is what keeps it together. Awesome quote: “If you want to find community then help them fix their roof, or help them rake their leaves.”

  5. Marcus Grodi

    Excellent, Kevin. Seems like a parallel expression or application of subsidiarity. Our efforts to establish community (koinonia) begin as close to home as possible (self, marriage, children), and move outward in concentric circles, trusting that, unless God makes it otherwise obviously clear, we are right now where He wants us to be; and that person we rarely speak with, next door on our paved street or our nearest neighbor down the gravel road, may need our love and freindship far more than some seemingly like-minded intentional neighbor far, far away. Mea culpa; mea culpa; mea maxim culpa.

  6. Michael S

    Hey Kevin. I too am met with so many folks who are ready to sell it all in the search for Catholic community, often ready to “flee to the fields”. This is encouraging proof that there are many who are listening and desiring a different, more grounded WAY. Peace.
    ms
    lpf

  7. Thank you. Wonderful reflection. My wife and I were trained as community organizers in the Peace Corps and spent many years working for the Church, organizing subsistence farmers in the Amazon (their land and lives were threatened). We have reflected for forty years on community, have dialogued with friends about forming an intentional community (and reached the same conclusions Kevin has), have been part of a wonderful Franciscan community and a dysfunctional lay mission community, have worked in rural & urban areas. We are very much part of our parish community yet – like most of us – long always for deeper community – but isn’t that what our faith is all about?

  8. Bert Clayton

    Greetings!
    Stating finding community where you are would be best said if there’s appreciation of christian faith then resolution processes, providing everyone shares the faith.
    If someone has a community of others that are oppositional to the faith, it isn’t likely one will have community. At the same time, wiccans appreciation and regard for nature carries part of the faith while void of the rest. Where the Bible regards the earth and speaks of her spuing people from the earth, for us to use the earth as not abususing it. Then regard for animals, az a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, the Balaam. Good examples. Where at least there’s common ground. A starting point. That contrasts with say someone entirely secular. Where understanding secular views can be seen, one would have to avoid interjecting the ideas of faith, while exemplifying the fruits of the faith, which can become scarce in.oppositional ideologies that desire to be antagonistic.
    So it depends on where one is. As there’s also those that have feet swift to mischief and conflict. Where they live to be antagonistic and problematic. Things many desire to escape to form community to have a reinforcing and support of their faith.
    Then sharing interests as fishing, netting, sewing, earthenware, shooting, gardening, herbs, boating, or otherwise are adjuncts that bring unity and pleasure.
    Just saying as not all places share common grounds.
    Best Regards

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