They say that “young people” today are seeking community, but no one really talks about what that means. There are two ways to look at community according to Sandra Schneider: common life (monastic or structured) and congregational living (loose structure but intentional). When people talk about “young people” seeking community it sounds like they suppose this means common life; I can tell you that I am young people, and common life doesn’t appeal to me. What does appeal to me is sharing my adult life with like-minded, and like hearted people.
We’ve been studying community at the Novitiate for the past couple of weeks and I really loved Tony Gittin’s article “Community, Communitas and Downward Mobility.” According to Gittins communitas, a vibrant kind community life, is just a brief moment like a match being struck. As I read his article I couldn’t help think of Catherine McAuley’s own communal beginnings. Her dream was impossible, her companions were insufficient, and the audacity of her imagination and faith were unstoppable (Gittins 19). It’s hard to imagine choosing the circumstances which would facilitate communitas today: incredible odds, and little hope of success. The payoff however, is an incredible burst of imagination fueled by “a burning commitment both to the idea and to the community” (Gittins 20). This choice, to live on our liminal edge, to live vulnerably and therefore authentically, is a daunting and simultaneously alluring challenge. We are no longer a new community, new foundations are not being sent out as in Catherine’s day. So how do we rekindle communitas? We can’t re-strike a match, but we can bring a new match to the embers of the original fire. For me these coals are found in the members of my community, the history of the order, Catherine’s charism, and my inter-community peer groups both here this year as well as within Giving Voice. The challenge to me personally will be to seek out areas and experiences which will present me with incredible odds that can only be faced with a strong commitment to community and to the call God has given me.