Monday, February 14, 2011

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
Acts 4:32

First, I should say Happy Valentine's Day... well, actually, happy feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius! Unfortunately, people don't typically know a whole lot about Cyril and Methodius... But, alas... today's feast is not the focus of today's reflections...

As a Marianist and as a staff person at the University of Dayton, I hear a lot of talk about community. People say that the community of UD is what sets it apart from other places. It's something intangible... there's a bond... or some people call it a sense of family. They attribute this sense to the fact that the school is Marianist. For Marianists community is a means of bringing Christ to the world. "Many people will never grasp the message of Christ until they see a credible witness of it. Many will never know Christ's love until they experience it in a community. Our mission is to provide such communities." (A Manual of Marianist Spirituality)

When many students (not all) at UD are asked about what community is, they say things like, "I know my neighbors." Or "If I walk through the student neighborhood on a weekend night I can go into any party and it's okay." Or perhaps they talk about the way people party together several days in a row...

Each year it is estimated that 10-12 students at UD attempt suicide. Some people feel isolated... alone... Rates of depression are very high. Unfortunately, this is true on many college campuses, but people don't really like to talk about it. This isn't what community is about. True community would not allow for this.

I've been reflecting on community recently in light of my experiences in El Salvador last month. It was there that I caught a glimpse of community that I hope I never forget. It's difficult to put into words. However, in La Ceiba (the small village in which I lived with a family for a few days) community is their means of survival. They truly depend on one another in a way I've not experienced. There was no sense of individualism... or possessiveness... or being rushed/hurried to go on to the next thing. People... relationships... empathy... compassion... These were their priorities. The people of La Ceiba settled there after living in the refugee camps of Honduras during the civil war. They traveled back to El Salvador together just before the war ended. Without each other, they never would have been able to survive. And still... without sharing food... water... laughter... parenting responsibilities... survival would be difficult.

This is a sharp contrast to what I see around me and within me. People rushed and hurried (me included!)... superficial relationships... people using others for their own selfish needs... possessiveness... "my time," "my money," "this is what I want," sort of mentality. It's no wonder people feel lonely and isolated...

When I was in high school a friend of mine from middle school took her life. She left in her note that she was alone. There was no one who really cared about her. There are hundreds of young people like her all around us. Can we step out of our own little world to see them?

May we become people of real community... Christ-centered and unselfish. May we put others ahead of ourselves and stop perpetuating the "me first" mindset. In the words of Dorothy Day, may we learn, "Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each others' faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much."

Many blessings to you all!
Sr. N

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