Friday, January 6, 2012

Towards Community

I just finished Aidan Nichol's O.P. book "Looking at the Liturgy." It was a great read and I gleaned some inspiration for a post regarding community from a comment he made about the liturgical movement and in particular Dom Gueranger O.S.B.  He notes that Dom Gueranger recognized that: "Like happiness, community is not produced by aiming at it directly; rather, it is a vital, indirect consequence of immersion in other things." (p. 42) Oddly, in a book about the liturgy I finally found put into words the sentiments I had been trying to put forth for quite some time. Community is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Also, this community is not something one can create, but rather something that is created through other things. Eric Brende in his book "Better Off" recognized this reality amongst the Old Order Amish with whom he lived and worked for two years. He noted that gatherings were never an end in themselves, but there was always a purpose for gathering (i.e. work, etc.) Thus, the pressure to be social (i.e. build community) was negated because the goal was not socialization, but the building of a barn or the canning of vegetables. It was in these other things that the community took shape and authentic bonds were formed.

The idea of a Catholic Agrarian Community is destined to remain just an idea so long as we are seeking to form a community for the sake of forming a community. There must be something beyond the community, another "something" that is the bond for those who would seek such a life. Fleeing the world will never be sufficient cement to hold together such a group. Nor could such a community hope to flourish if those in it were there based on some nostalgia for a simpler way of life or a love of the land. Such endeavours are ill-fated because the unity is too fragile. Again Eric Brende contests to this in his failed attempt with several other families to mimic the Old Order Amish along Catholic lines. The glue for community life must be something beyond the community itself. I believe that too often the community becomes the end in and of itself and the fragility of human nature is destined to break such unity.

I look for the model of unity in the institution that has served the Church for more than 1500 years: monastic life. The unity of monasteries is very strong so long as their focus on living a life for and only for the Glory of God is central. "Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus" (That in all things God may be glorified.) Dom Gueranger put forth an idea of "social prayer." This is a far cry from the idea that we must create liturgies that have the creation of community as their natural end. Rather Dom Gueranger says that the quest for community is tied to mystery. Fr. Nichols states about Gueranger's litrugical theology: " Community is to be found in the rites as an emergent property of their disciplined form." (p. 43) Again he writes: " It is by acceptance through faith of our composition into a supernatural unity through a preexisting rite that community is engendered, not by the devising of new or adapted rites that have the creation of community as their immediate end." (p. 42) Liturgically speaking, when the liturgy becomes centered on the people, and the focus on the true worship of God is weakened, then the community, rather than being built up is damaged or even destroyed. It is by the removal of the focus on the self and together Conversi ad Dominum (Turn toward the Lord) that we become one... a true community.

This all relates to the idea of Catholic agrarian community because without the center of Catholic life (orthodox Catholic parish, monastery, etc.) then the community becomes an end in itself. There must be something beyond community to create community. That is our hope for a renewal of Catholic life and Catholic agrarian life. Small communities centered around the worship of the One True God.



JOYfilled Family said...

lovely reminder that is much needed during my current discernment.

Devin Rose said...

Great insights. We are planning on homesteading near a monastery and religious community.

7kids6dice1gamerdad said...

Wonderfully written! I shall have to ponder this as I consider my family's move to the country.

Jim Albert said...

To your last comment Kevin I would add what you stated earlier in the post, which was basically the idea of common work or gathering with a purpose related to the communities survival, self-sufficiency or chartiy.

Great post and great wisdom!

Maresa Publishing said...

This is a very good start, I am glad you are there and I could read about it.