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Enhancing Community Life

by Fr. Vic Sadaya, CMF

Our call is basically a call to community. In fact, that is what we understand in the life of the Lord Jesus. In the Gospels, we see Jesus calling people to the fellowship he shared with the Father. He called the outcasts, the sinners and the marginalized in society. He called 12 men to be his companions to form a community of disciples. Jesus’ call to community has a four-fold movement. He entered our world in the Incarnation; gave himself away completely to the point of dying for us; became our very food and nourishment in the Eucharist; became the source of our hope in the resurrection; and remained our life-giving Word
We learn from Jesus some practical ways of living in community which he himself lived with his disciples; these can be found in the Gospels: being humble and simple (Mt.18:4; Ph.2:7-8), welcoming the little ones like Jesus (Mt.18:10), having fellowship of equals before God (Mt.23:8-9), being servant of all (Mk.9:33-35), giving one’s life (Mt.18:8-10), spirit of sacrifice (Mk.10:42-45), concern for the brothers and sisters, fraternal correction (Mt.18:15-18), forgive wrong without limit (Mt.18:21ff), building community with emphasis on praying together (Mt.18:19-20), rest and fellowship (Mk.6:31), sent to proclaim the Good News (Mk.6:7)
The Christological basis of community life is a powerful source of inspiration for community living yet by no means can it do away with some of the practical realities that can cause conflict among members of the community. We recognize that human limitations and the tendency to self-centered concerns often prevent us from living up to our goal and aspirations as a community.
There are some common difficulties that a community faces in its attempt to live out the implications of the call to community.
The community has to deal with its vision and structures which all members have to share. The community will have to put a balance between life ad intra and life ad extra (introversion and extraversion) as well as the balance between the needs of the community as a whole and the needs of each community member. Any imbalance can adversely affect life in the community.
The community has to deal with personality differences. The variety of personality types constitutes a wealth of talent and energy for the achievement of its vision. Such, however, also has its drawbacks and liabilities especially when conflicts of personalities arise.
Other areas of concerns that a community faces has to do with the questions of intimacy, indifference, lack of awareness and loneliness. When these concerns are not properly handled, community life can become destructive and will lose its relevance to exist.
Moreover, there are certain attitudes and behaviors that can also be regarded as blocks to the harmonious atmosphere and relationship in the community. These must not be tolerated as they can destroy the community. These attitudes and behaviors include criticism, hostility, disrespect, suspicion, fighting, insincerity, aggressiveness in one’s position, abuse of authority, indifference, dishonesty and the culture of “chismis”.
Community is where charity is first proclaimed. The mission begins in community. In fact, the effectiveness of mission depends on the quality of life in common. St. Augustine once said “All people are to love all since you cannot be useful and available to all the time, it is strongly advised that you concentrate on those who are close to you by reason of time, place or any other circumstance.” What he meant was that we should begin charity at home, that is, we should express our fraternal love in our community. After all, how can we love other people in mission when we cannot even love the people in our community?
There are five crucial moments that can make community fully alive, moments in which love is expressed. These crucial moments are non-negotiable.
1. Meals.
Meals are a sign of union and communion. We see this in the life Jesus with his disciples. The crucial moments of the Lord Jesus with his disciples happened during meals (the last supper and the reception of Jesus at the breaking of the bread). Meals are a primetime for good communication and sharing. Hence, we must make our presence felt in common meals in which we can share and listen to as other members of the community share their experiences.
Sharing meals at tables is a great opportunity for fraternal dialogue:
Our Claretian Directory states: “The local community’s timetable should be so distributed on the basis of charitable dialogue as to assure that everyone will normally be able to attend community acts of prayer, meals and recreation… (150)”
2. Meetings.
Meetings should provide avenues for everyone to feel included and for members to feel a common responsibility for the values being shared as well as the decisions being made. Meetings, therefore, should not be limited to business matters, but must provide an atmosphere for dialogue where each member can share his own thoughts, feelings and reactions about the life of the community.“Community life should be a continual stimulus toward perfection of charity. One means whereby the community can foster its vitality and its spiritual and apostolic growth is the community meeting and the revision of life (Dir. 139)
3. Prayer.
“The most intimate moment of community life is when community comes together to pray.”
Our Constitutions states: “Fraternal life is best symbolized and brought to perfection in the Eucharist, which is the sign of unity and the bond of love. Our fraternity is also nourished by prayer, especially liturgical prayer. (Claretian Constitutions 12)”
And the Starting Afresh from Christ Document stresses: “giving a priority to spirituality means starting afresh from the rediscovered centrality of the Eucharistic celebration, a privileged place of encounter with the Lord.” (t #26)
– The community should establish its own inner order, setting up a timetable for community prayer…” (CC 57)

4. Apostolate.
– The apostolate of a local community has a communal dimension. Apostolate must be an expression of the life of the community. Any apostolate that is characterized by individualism destroys the communal dimension of apostolate.
Our Constitutions says: “Collaboration in the ministry of the Word pertains to the origins of our common life. However, there are many ways in which we can share in the mission of our community. Whenever a ministry is entrusted to a member, it should be carried out in such a way that we all feel we have a share in it. Conversely, each member should feel that the apostolate he is performing is one he has received from the community.” (CC13)
5. Fun/Recreation.
If prayer is the human search for God, humor helps us realize that God is unpredictable as His chosen people.
Fun and recreation foster harmony preventing us from being overly serious about ourselves. It is important that we relax together and laugh from time to time, that we enjoy one another’s company.
Periods of recreation and relaxation encourage spontaneous personal relationship and help preserve a joyful disposition.
Our Constitutions emphasizes: “Besides the time devoted to spiritual pursuits and word, our missionaries should also have some time to themselves and be able to enjoy a suitable period for recreation, silence and rest. (CC 57)
The way we give witness in our community life is crucial because of the kind of world we have today. The document Starting Afresh From Christ challenges us: “One of the tasks of religious today is that of spreading the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the church community and even beyond its boundaries, especially in those places where today’s world is torn apart by ethnic hatred or senseless violence. This is the task which requires spiritual person interiorly shaped by God by loving and merciful communion and by mature communities where spirituality of communion is the rule of life.” (#28)
Community life is crucial because as mentioned earlier, “The effectiveness of our mission depends on the quality of life we all live in common.”

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