The Common Life or Community was the big theme of the past week. Women and men religious have been living communally for centuries. I’ve lived this way for only a short time, and am still discerning its relevance, necessity, and personal fit. It’s noteworthy that each one of us novices has echoed time and again in our vocation stories that it was the incredible joy in the communities that we visited and eventually joined, which we found most compelling. So what is community all about? I’ve been pondering this for a while. As a phenomenon, it’s pretty complex. Here’s what I’ve found so far-Romanticized. I’ve read about our corporate call to prophetic witness; this conjures up images of the traveling band of prophets of Elijah’s time or a group of wandering ascetics. In a separate vein, I could also see why some folks might be drawn to common life to fill some void for companionship or nurturing or perfection. The reality of it is far from these exaggerations.
Challenging. Ever go to a Fun House and go through the House of Mirrors? Well, living in close quarters with people with such diverse backgrounds reflects back to you your own limitations, as well as where your perception of things may be distorted, perhaps by past, but still-lingering, hurts. There is impact on the whole whenever we bump up against those limitations, resulting in countless opportunities to forgive and be forgiven.
Uplifting. There is nothing like worshipping together, especially in song. It is communion at deep levels of the heart, Spirit to Spirit, whether we are praying at home, at the Priory, at Aquinas Institute, with the Inter-Community Novitiate, or at other Dominican Sister congregations. Grace simply abounds.Promising. We were also told, by others who have lived in community for a while, how it enables their ministry in such a way that even if done individually, their ministry is a wholly corporate act. Everything is done on behalf, and made possible as a result, of the entire congregation. I haven’t experienced this yet, but it sounds wonderful.
So in the tradition of biblical merism, I’ve seen community dynamics to be:
|at its worst|
|at its best|
One thing we all agree on: God is the head of this household. And one thing Dominicans espouse in this way of life: all members are equal. Sounds like the kingdom of God to me. And perhaps a great place to grow holy preaching.