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Communion and Community

Communion and Community

By Fr. Enan Zelinski, Parochial Vicar

There are many varieties of community events that take place around the SMG Parish and School campus: school sporting events, fish fries, bonfires, community Sunday lunches, pancake breakfasts, Friday fellowship, Mass and muffins, youth group game night, etc. The list could go on. Some of these events are new, some of them are post-pandemic-isolation reboots, and some are long-standing traditions that the SMG community has always known.

But what exactly is the benefit of these types of community events at a Catholic church? Is it just to be one more place among the many other places where we can spend our time socializing? Sure, some of the events serve as fundraisers for particular charities, but even in those cases, there’s a deeper purpose to us spending time together.

The first – and natural – reason is that we are by our human nature social beings. We see this in the Creation account in Genesis when God said “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God then proceeds to create a suitable partner for the man – Woman. Catholicism has seen this complementary creation of male and female as revealing the social nature of humanity. We are not isolated individuals, but have been created to be in relationship with one another.

On the supernatural level, however, we as baptized Christians who profess the Catholic faith are bound together on a more profound level than even our common humanity. Made members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, we have received by our baptism and sacramental Communion a bond that surpasses even our biological and familial bonds. This isn’t just a saccharine or sentimental idea that “we’re all in this together”. Our bond in the Body of Christ in a real way has united each of us intimately to one another in a community unlike any other. What this means is that community within our Church is not just an add-on or a nicety that is separate from our liturgical worship and common prayer. Rather, the community life of the Church is essentially linked to our participation in Mass and the reception of the Sacraments.

In recent years, it seems to me that we have recognized these realities because we have experienced a significant lack of communal and social life. The pandemic years of social isolation took away our regular participation in both natural and sacramental communion. Perhaps some of us experienced the pain of this lack more than others (here’s to you, fellow introverts), but regardless of our dispositions we all experienced a real sense of “something is missing here”.

The communal aspects of our parish life have gradually come back online, and each of them provides an essential and meaningful role in our lives as Catholics. Sure, we can find the natural level of social life anywhere: sports teams, the bar, and even online to some degree. But there is nowhere else but the Church where we find true, supernatural communion with other believers.

Investing ourselves in communal life is not just another thing to do, but is intended to be for us an immense help in living out the Christian faith. To know and to be known by others beyond the common superficiality of “how are things?” helps us to rely on and support one another as we strive to grow deeper in discipleship and fidelity. In the ideal, Christian community is the place where we are able to find a support system unlike any other because – in imitation of Christ – those around us know our strengths, weaknesses, and our struggles and are able to love us still in the midst of our imperfections.

To strive for that ideal of Christian community takes time and effort. It is far easier for us to remain acquaintances with each other than it is to become sincere “brothers and sisters in Christ” as St. Paul addresses each of his letters. But this difficulty does not mean it is not an ideal worth striving for. When St. Paul addresses the believers of the early church, his sense of relationship with his disciples was not some false sense of sentimental union. Paul understood the bond he shared in the Blood of Christ. We too are aided by this true, intimate, and supportive community life of faith.

Our pilgrimage through this life is not meant to be lived alone and separated from one another. Rather, we as human beings and redeemed Christian disciples, need communal support. More than simple social events, the variety of opportunities that are available at our parish are intended to help us grow in a community life that flows from our shared Eucharistic Communion.

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