The Christian Imperative for Community

In the midst of today's darkness, Christians must find community, for without it, no Christian will be able to stand against the tide.

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When St. John—the evangelist, not the baptizer—speaks about the Light shining in the darkness, the image evoked for many is that of a small candle flame holding out steadfastly in the midst of a thick, almost liquid darkness. The darkness certainly seems that oppressive today.

If we are not battling ideologies of victimhood and violence, we are dealing with the erasure of all signs of Jesus Christ at every level of society. If it isn’t that, then we are feeling like besieged warriors on the battlements of a small Alamo-like city, beating back the tide of demonic forces of sexual perversion as they advance with the rainbow standard. 

The brief moments of respite only leave us enough time to deal with the terrible division and confusion that have arisen within the Church herself. One feels the way Pippin and Gandalf must have when they were watching the darkness of Mordor and its massive hosts advance on Minas Tirith—for those who understand the reference. 

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What is a faithful Catholic man or woman to do? I believe the answer lies in exactly what the Church is: ecclesia, koinonia—the gathering of the faithful who have been called by God. Without a community, no Christian will be able to stand against the tide or effectively carry out the Church’s mission of saving the world.

Twenty years ago, I was a lost soul. I was in my mid-twenties, addicted to pornography, depressed, and isolated. My life had become meaningless. I had reached that point because a few years prior I had decided to separate myself from the Church and find my own way. My own way was hell. I had condemned myself to a slavery to my own will. Thanks be to God, when the crisis moment came, a family friend directed me to a priest who invited me to attend an eight-week catechesis program for adults. I had had enough of the filth to which I had subjected myself, so I accepted the invitation. 

At the end of the first meeting, one of the catechists announced the kerygma—the announcement of the Good News. I had never heard such an announcement in my life. For the first time, I really understood the meaning of salvation and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I knew, at a profoundly existential level, that I was in need of salvation, that God loved me deeply, as I was, and that His grace actually had the power to transform me into a new man. I was experiencing the enormity of the living Church for the first time. 

Driving home that night, I knew that I had reached a crossroads. One path would lead me further into hell, the other would make everything new. The fact that I am writing this attests to the way I chose.

At the end of the catechesis, I became a member of a small community in my parish. There I am discovering the depths and power of my baptism. I am finding intimacy with the Lord through the Liturgy of the Hours, which my wife and I pray daily. I am learning how to discern God’s action through the events of my life. The Mass is no longer a meaningless obligation. It has become the nerve-center of my week. The Liturgy has come to life for me. 

Being in the community has made it possible for me to celebrate my tenth year of sobriety from pornography. I am married, and my wife and I have five beautiful daughters whom we are raising to love the Lord and be faithful to the Church. These miracles have happened because of the communion of the Church as the body of Christ.

Faithful Catholic parents know just how serious the situation of society is. We encounter evil everywhere—children’s books, children’s movies and TV (e.g., Disney), rainbow flags wherever you look, sexually-explicit images on billboards, in buses, etc. We even have to protect our kids from our own families. Anyone who has an extended family member who lives a homosexual lifestyle knows how bad it can get. 

Every aspect of life that used to be totally normal has become a means to attack the Gospel. Unless one works in a Catholic institution, and an orthodox one at that, one’s place of business is likely hostile territory. Many faithful Christians are being ostracized because they will not play bizarre pronoun games or because they refuse to participate in some diversity, equity, and inclusion training that reduces the other to a victim or an enemy, depending on one’s vantage point. 

In the community, the Lord has given me brothers and sisters who are enduring the same sufferings. We understand each other. My children and theirs have become a small community of friends whose parents are raising them in the same “strange” way. They can rely on one another as they grow up in an environment so radically different from that of their schools. The common experience of Faith has become a bonding agent. 

When a Christian is isolated, he or she is easy prey for the evil one. In a community, one is protected. The Holy Spirit gives the community courage and endurance, just as He did for the early communities of Rome or to the outlawed Catholic faithful in 16th-century England. When a Christian is isolated, he or she is easy prey for the evil one. In a community, one is protected. Tweet This

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:13-16) states that we, the Church, are salt and light for the world. “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” Through the community, God is making salt out of me. Being strenghtened by frequent participation in the sacraments, gathering for Liturgies of the Word in the middle of the week, receiving ongoing formation, praying with my brothers and sisters, my wife and I are becoming signs of Christ’s Resurrection to our friends, family, and neighbors. 

We live in an area of the United States where having five children raises eyebrows. It creates a question mark for the people who know us. They want to know why my wife is at home raising the girls instead of producing a second income for such a “big” family. 

“You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14,16). We, the members of the Church militant, are called to evangelize with our lives. Sometimes that means going out and preaching the Good News; sometimes it is just by being who we are. Either way, we need a community in which to receive the grace and courage to fulfill such a mission.

Communities like the one described above exist everywhere in the Church. There still remain faithful and orthodox parishes that follow the Gospel and the tradition of mother Church. There are charisms, inspirations of the Holy Spirit such as Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way, or Schoenstatt where faithful Catholics can find orthodoxy, joy, and love for our Blessed Mother in a community. 

Following St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a number of institutes of higher learning are becoming strongholds for young adults who love the Church. Ave Maria University in Florida, the University of Dallas, and Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio are some examples. Families are finding community in a relatively new “movement” of independent Catholic grade schools and high schools dedicated to catechizing their students correctly and educating them in the classical tradition. 

Without a community, no Christian can stand up to the onslaught of paganism that is upon us or effectively carry out the Church’s mission of saving the world. The late and most worthy Pope Benedict XVI stated it in powerful and simple terms in the book Salt of the Earth:

I would put it like this: No one can be a Christian alone; being a Christian means a communion of wayfarers. Even a hermit belongs to a wayfaring community and is sustained by it. For this reason it must be the Church’s concern to create pilgrim communities…It will have to form new ways of pilgrim fellowship; communities will have to shape each other more intensely by supporting each other and living in the faith…Christians must therefore really support one another. 

Author

  • Francisco Zuniga

    Francisco Zuniga is a 16-year veteran of Catholic education with experience teaching language arts at the elementary and middle school levels. Francisco has contributed news articles and commentary pieces to online publications American Briefing and Prolife Update. He holds a masters degree in philosophy from George Mason University. Francisco and his wife live in Silver Spring, Maryland with their five daughters.

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