The church was always intended to be a community of love. But most Catholic parishes are a long ways from there. The church is rightly concerned with doctrine and liturgy. We need the true faith and we need to celebrate it in an authentic way. But at the end of the day it is by our love for one another that people will know we are His disciples. There has been a
about how protestant churches are not as successful as they used to be in building community for young adults.
for quite some time. The latest study of why they leave does not mention community much but that suggests Catholics don’t even expect community from their church. They see it as a cold institution. They hope it becomes less cold. The idea of it being a place where people feel supernatural love for each other is so far away that it does not make the radar.
So what is going wrong? Why don’t Catholics bond with each other and form friendships that make the whole world want to be Catholic? That is what Jesus wanted for His church. We are His church. What gives? There are likely many reasons. One that comes to mind is that it is too easy to be Catholic today. People bond when they share a struggle. But too many Catholics don’t struggle. If we would all struggle to understand and live out all the teachings of the church we would find ourselves being powerfully bonded together. The culture would be laughing at us and we would be looking for encouragement and support. But many parishes are not that different from the culture. Sure there are some who want to know the faith and live the faith but they are not exactly the majority. A serious Catholic is almost as likely to find his faith being ridiculed inside his parish as he is in the society at large. So you tread very lightly.
People find solutions. There are organizations like Opus Dei that offer that kind of community. Some find it online. But that is not the supernatural love that the world would find amazing. That is just groups of like-minded individuals hanging out together. There is nothing remarkable about that.
1 Peter 2:11 talks about Christians being like aliens in a foreign land. That resonates with me because when I was growing up the church I went to was mostly dutch immigrants. We were close. My dad was a pastor so that helped but most families socialized together a lot. They went to the same school. They had boys and girls clubs as part of the church. The teenagers had a strong community. It was all quite natural.
That broke down a generation later when the church members became less dutch. We were not bonded like aliens in a foreign land because we were living our faith so well. It was because we were actually aliens in a foreign land. When we ceased to literally be that we ceased to live like that. But we should have that dynamic all the time. We should not fit very well in our culture. We should feel strange enough that we should naturally seek to spend time together as Catholics.
That is when the church starts to act as a body animated by the Holy Spirit and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Then her holiness and her beauty will be easier to see. It is often when the church is persecuted that we see this happening. When the people who are there are paying a price or taking a risk to be there. Then the witness becomes even stronger because you not only see the body of Christ but you see the cross as well.