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Forming Community

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 29, 2005

The feedback on my recent column on the need for community has been rich and varied. A few people expressed discouragement at the fragmentation caused by a lack of doctrinal unity in the Church—a problem which I do not wish to minimize—but most correspondents offered positive suggestions based on the community-building experiences they themselves have shared.

Some pointed to the newer movements in the Church as ideal opportunities for both building and experiencing community. In particular I heard from those who have been rejuvenated by Communion and Liberation, Cursillo, and Focolare. Others favored extensions of traditional religious orders such as the Secular Franciscans. Still others emphasized the importance of involvement in the typical lay groups which are available in many parishes, including the Holy Name Society, the Legion of Mary, and the Knights of Columbus.

Nor do these exhaust the available options. I received messages from a formal community of Catholic families, from a lay community operating under the jurisdiction of its local bishop, from deacons spearheading community outreach programs, and from those involved in the Global Solidarity Partnership operated by Catholic Relief Services, which pairs American dioceses with third world dioceses around the world.

One correspondent also stressed the need for community to arise out of true friendship, including the need for a proper understanding of deep and lasting friendships among men, which have in some ways become a casualty of today's preoccupation with homosexuality. Though not associated with a particular organization, I detected here the Opus Dei trademark, for Opus Dei is particularly good at developing this potential for friendship in the spiritual formation of its members.

Not having personal experience with the inner workings of most of these organizations, communities, and approaches to community, I cannot say how each would address the primary concern of my column, which was with natural communities. By this I mean communities which grow naturally out of our ordinary lives, as opposed to being spiritual “add-ons” designed to compensate for the lack of true community where we live and work.

In the face of such enthusiasm, however, to insist upon my own critical analysis would be to look the proverbial gift horse in the proverbial mouth. As usual, CatholicCulture users have given more than they received.

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