The Importance of the Communal Life, As Seen in Two Commercials

There is a line from Scripture that says, Woe to the solitary man. If he falls he has no one to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

Scripture also says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb 10:24-25). The teaching is clear: we must come together each week for Mass and learn to live in deep communion with one another. We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need encouragement and exhortation, food for the journey, and companionship and protection.

In the days of Jesus, it was almost unthinkable for a person to make a lengthy journey alone. Once a person left the relative safety of the town, the journey got dangerous. There were robbers lying in wait along the roads just looking for vulnerable targets. For this reason, people almost always made journeys in groups.

This is a good image for the spiritual journey we all must make. Alone, we are easy targets. We are vulnerable and without help when spiritual demons attack.

Yet another insight says, “Feuding brothers reconcile when there is a maniac at the door.”

Somehow I thought of all this when I saw these two videos. They are clever and make the point of partner or perish, love or lose, hang together or hang separately. Yes, woe to the solitary man. How necessary the protection of the flock! How necessary it is to stay together!

5 Replies to “The Importance of the Communal Life, As Seen in Two Commercials”

  1. My wife and I moved to a new state a couple of years ago so as a result we were now part of a new parish. At our past parishes, I had some involvement teaching CCD, but always had reasons why we were too busy to get more involved. This time we decided that when we joined our new parish that we would really get much more involved and make a greater time commitment. It was the best decision that we made concerning our new home. Now, two years later, the parish has become our extended family! At this point 80% of our friends are from our parish. It has been a wonderful change in our life here, both spiritually and friendship wise. I wish that we made this a priority in the past. My advice for anyone reading this is that in the troubled times we Catholic’s face in today’s America, there has never been a better time to give of yourself. It’s never perfect, but well worth it! Praise God!

  2. I agree with this Msgr. Pope. Unfortunately, this does not play out in most Catholic Churches, which have become essentially tightly run businesses full of “groups.” I am in dismay when I look at the signs at all the Catholic Churches I have visited for the toll free numbers to the government if you are in need of help. Many of them are posted on the doors to the offices of the parish. In other words….don’t bother asking, call the government they have numerous “social justice” programs available to meet your needs. It’s sickening. Of late, I see it’s also on the first page of their websites. Apparently, we’re to form a deep communal bond with the government employees. We’re to travel with them if there is danger because it would be rare for the Church to take that risk in this day and age. I haven’t felt safe in the community of a Catholic Church for years. In this neck of the woods, there’s far too many wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. I still agree with your post, however. Just does not fit well in the modern Catholic Church.

  3. To Chris’s assertion that “80% of our friends are from our parish” –

    I moved to my diocese as a new college graduate over thirty years ago. In all that time, I’ve attended the same handful of parishes and I try to stay informed about a few others in the area.

    I always expected to find a parish like the one I grew up in. Where everyone knew each other, where social activities gave everyone a sense of contribution and belonging, and where single people got nudged towards each other when it seemed appropriate. I clung to an obsolete sense of dedication to staying Catholic, to marrying in the Church, and so on.

    I’m over 50 years old now. Still Catholic and still very single. I have NO Catholic friends and never have. I have plenty of friends that “grew up Catholic” and even “married Catholic”… but all them are glad to lecture me about all the reasons that they left the Church, and why I might be happier if I did too.

    All my area parishes have NEVER had a social activity that I felt welcomed at. Everything is cliquish, there’s nothing that’s open to all. There’s nothing to volunteer for, because unlike my childhood parish where all the men volunteered for grounds maintenance and the like, today’s mega-parishes have paid staff to do all that work.

    “Communal life?” If only that still existed. But those days are long gone.

    1. Hi Larry,
      I do agree that in certain parts of the country there are mega size parishes and it does make it difficult to feel a sense of community. We were fortunate as we were geographically on the edge of two parishes, one out “in the country” with only 300 or so registered families and the other with 800+ families registered. The challenge that I see in areas of the country where the population is exploding is for the very large parishes to figure out how to maintain a sense of community. It is more difficult. With that said, having traveled all 50 states extensively, I can tell you first hand that their still are many of the parishes that you long for. As a “revert” (a person that left the faith and returned years later), it is important to not get caught prioritizing the wrong things in a parish. Our faith always must come first starting with the sacraments. In my years away, I came across a number of former Catholics that left for non-Catholic Christian Churches. Most didn’t really know the faith that they had left and were often looking for things in the wrong order of priority. Sadly many “learned” more about the Catholic Chuch from their new church, filled with misinformation about Catholicism. I am not saying this is your situation, I am speaking in general terms. When I left, almost 30 years ago, it was because I was looking for the wrong things. I remember telling a family member that I was leaving for somewhere that I “could be better fed.” I wanted, as a friend at the time described, the “warm fuzzies.” I didn’t understand that Christ created the Catholic Church and that there is no greater food than the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ found in the Eucharist. Having friendships in the faith is so vital, but those friendships must be part of, and supporting our growth in the faith. We ended up with 80% of our friendships coming from our focus on things like teaching CCD, or being part of the parish pro-life group, the RCIA program, Adoration, Bible study group, working the annual fundraiser etc. I don’t pretend to know your situation, I can only speak from my own experience.

      Most every parish I have belonged to has cliques to some degree. There is also a degree of pettiness and gossip and other sinful things as well. We are a Church of sinners. But it will only outweigh the faith if we allow it to. I will keep you in my prayers and if you could pray for me too, I sure could use them. Peace!

      1. Chris, in the parish of my youth, the community activities I speak of were “the annual fundraisers” and also general volunteering for whatever needed doing around the parish buildings and grounds. The (much larger) parishes in my present home area all have paid staffers to do everything. It may be more efficient but it takes away an easy way for parishioners to meet and share a sense of involvement. And there are no “fundraisers” or socials of any kind.

        My ex-Catholic friends all left church life in general. I really think they left for the same reason I’m grumbling about. Yes, the primary activity of the institutional Church is to provide the sacraments… but the primary goal of the parish community is to encourage and support each other as Catholics.

        With no “social network”, I believe that when someone has a crisis of faith, they simply leave and no one notices that they left, because no one ever noticed that they were there. The only one who might care is the computer in the parish office who sends you a reminder to use your offering envelopes. Beyond that, nothing.

        The Catholic marriage rate is dangerously close to zero now, and that’s easy evidence of this collapse of Msgr. Pope’s “communal life”.

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