Community for Sainthood

ST. BENEDICT OF NORCIA

ST. BENEDICT OF NORCIA

This is the first post to make it onto CBC. Fear of raising the bar too high caused the honor of writing it to fall to me, your humble blogger (if there is such a thing). CBC is a place of community. For the indolent like me, community for its own sake isn’t worth the effort. Luckily CBC is community for the sake of something more. How about this: community for sainthood.

 “Do you want to be a saint?” Eh. Yes. No. Well, maybe. What do you mean by saint? If it’s the supra-human image on an early 20th century holy card, or the perfection of duty for duty’s sake, then no, I don’t want to be a saint, much less put effort into it. Sainthood’s common, though incomplete, image is not what I want for myself. But I was helped this summer when my confrere, Br. Simon, a transitional deacon, homilised: A saint knows who God is, and knows who his or her self is. This is a definition I can work and move forward with. So let this be our working definition.

If sainthood means knowledge of God and myself, what does community have to do with it? Something…

Community and knowledge of myself: I once (Ok, more than once, but once for the purpose of this story) had a massive, massive, zit on my cheek. I was walking down the first-floor hallway of my monastery and went into the mailroom to see if anyone loved me that day. I ran into a confrere who saw me, stopped, placed his hands on my shoulders and looked intently at, yes, my zit. His nose wrinkled and, gasping, he said, “It’s just that I’ve never seen one so big!” (see Ps. 133:1) In community I live with mirrors. Others see what I don’t see about myself, or would rather not see, and point it out. Both the bad and the good.

Msgr. Luigi Guissani

Msgr. Luigi Guissani

But I’m shown myself not only through being told I’ve got a zit or I’m a good cook, for example. More importantly, it also comes through experiencing others, the very encounter with other persons who have hearts, desires, fears, needs, talents, shortcomings, and problems bound toward one common destiny. In loving and being loved, in the sharing of our lives, in tasting insufficiency, we discover that we are, indeed, made for something greater. This is where self-knowledge begins to liberate. Without this knowledge, knowledge about God is just the storage of extraneous facts.

Community and knowledge of God: Christ spreads the Gospel through witnesses. A friendship of people, connected not by common interests or agendas, but by a common Life within them, goes out to all the world. In my daily life, running into confreres and friends, I learn how much I need something greater. And I depend on others to witness to me about that Something Greater. Someone else had to tell me the name of the One who answers what I’m looking for. Someone who already knew Him had to tell me (has to tell me) that there is Another, Jesus, who wants to be with me. It all starts with community!

We see this in the saints of yesterday: Saint Benedict called his communities “schools for the Lord’s service”, and his monks needed to live community before going out on their own. And we see it in, I say with hope, the saints of tomorrow: Servant of God Luigi Giussani wrote, “All forms of Christian experience, even those lived in the innermost recesses of the soul, refer in some way to an encounter with the community and its authority.”

And so, CBC. If it’s about drinking beer, hearing ourselves talk while drinking beer, and feeling cool because we’re both Catholic and drinking beer (How un-Protestant. Congratulations.), then CBC bores me. So does community. But if CBC, if the sharing of lives, convivenza!, helps me see who I am and who God is, then, by golly, I’m in.

Br. Emmanuel Orrino

Br. Emmanuel Orrino

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