I have been a member of a catholic community since 1996. In those days, it wasn’t even clear as to why I joined. All I remember was that a good friend kept pestering me for about two years and the next time he asked, I decided to join, albeit reluctantly. Was it any good being in community? Was it any better than the life outside of it? The answer would come to me in the form of a yes and a no. and after all these years living in community, these are what I found out… yes! It is better , because community life taught me a lot of things. For one, community living gave me great friends which I consider as “family”. True and real friends whose friendship I so treasure. Friends that are like “real” blood brothers and sisters to me. I also found out in community that “real life” angels exists. And I have seen their lot at work in the lives of brethren… doing the big and small things that really matter. They literally are there for you, working without asking for anything or something in return.
Community living also gave me the chance to see and work with people whose lives are dedicated solely to the service of the Lord and His church. I likewise saw how a united community level off a portion of a mountain, literally, painstakingly and perseveringly, week in and week out so that brethren and people can live a more dignified life. These are but a few of the things I I have seen and learned living in community, there are a lot more actually and probably the greatest thing that I have learned in community is that it taught me how to pray. Praying to me before was like something mechanical, just something to do because one is supposed to do it and because everybody else does. Over the years, my prayer life evolved from being mechanical to something more heartfelt, more personal. More like talking to my God on a personal, heart to heart level. And more than the praying, community life also taught me to listen to my God. To do what He wants me to do. Some people hear God thru the bible passages they come across to while in moments of solitude or reflection. I hear God through the events or images I see around me everyday. Images that may seem ordinary to many and just daily occurrences of daily living. But God sends me messages through these images… It is through this that I get to hear Him clearly. His leading being manifested in real time, images that are happening right before my eyes, right as they unfold.
On the other hand, community living also accorded me to cross paths with people who have a different agenda being in community. They joined up to expand their network in business under the guise of being in community. They use and manipulate people for their very own purpose. I have likewise seen people who are so beholden to their position that serving or working in community seems like a monarchy, including the politics and all… I have seen leaders or servants as what we call them now, so holy and righteous when giving talks yet act totally different when out of the prying eyes of brethren. I have seen the mudslinging, bickering, rock throwing and what have you happen right before my very eyes. And on a couple of instances, I too, became involved. When all these happen, I hurt… I hurt because it seems that what we have all known and learned in community was for nothing. It seems that the love of the Lord is not enough… and I have seen how brethren allow themselves to be used by the machinations of the evil one. So cunning and so manipulative and as clear as day and yet brethren allows it to happen. During these times, I am quick to question why all these are happening and why is it so overpowering that brethren seem helpless to point out and see the difference. Well, for one, he isn’t the evil one for nothing. And even his machinations do evolve to suit the various situations we are in. perhaps, the only surefire way to counteract his evil deeds are prayers, lots of it, 24/7… one must also learn to accept that the evil one is working round the clock in our lives too. Waiting for that opportune moment to strike hence we must not lower our guard. Most often, we all fall prey to his evil deeds partly because of our humanity. But acceptance to the fact that we are helpless brings forth our dependence to God for His divine protection. While prayers do provide protection, our God alone is the mighty and awesome defense that we can all have against the snares of the evil one, our shield in times of harassment and oppression.
Living in community is hard in the sense that a whole bunch of people with different backgrounds, attitudes and upbringing are gathered together and made to live as one. One must have a flexible and humble background to adjust easily to the “new” lifestyle one is thrust into. Perhaps, the greatest trait one must have is a loving and caring nature, simply because love overpowers all changes, in one’s life and in community living as well.
To sum it all up, living in community has bought me many wonderful experiences and learnings. The positives simply outweigh the negatives. Make no mistake, I love my community and I love being in community, all these are but my experiences and it may be totally different with others.
In Romans 12:3-13 it says, “3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[b] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[c] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.