“These guys are tight,” said my future novice director.
To me, they looked like very ordinary fellows. The men in the print shop of this lay community ran the press, the folding machine, and mailed out orders for books and literature.
By tight, he meant they were friends, close friends. As you can read in St. Crispin’s speech of Shakespeare’s Henry V, “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”
The Norbertine Fathers have friendship in community life. They even have a Dominican as a friend – Fr. Brian Mullady (second from left).
I was single and living in a world that had a lot of loneliness. What I saw here was refreshing. The men, women, and families here lived in a unique community of shared resources. This was St. Martin de Porres Lay Dominican Community in rural Kentucky. I had heard about them through the pro-life movement in which I had become involved for the past few years. Their printed newsletter talked about their pro-life apostolate and their dream of creating an ideal Catholic world through their life and work. I was very much attracted to friendship in community life. Looking back, their literature at the time was a bit triumphalist. But it caught my attention and idealism.
Friendship and loneliness
In the movie of a while back, Young Sherlock Holmes, the teenage hero muses on what kind of life he wanted to live. Gazing at an attractive young woman, he whispers, “I don’t want to be alone.”
How important is friendship in community life? As Vita Consecrata says,
“Saint Bernard’s words about the various Religious Orders remain ever timely: ‘I admire them all. I belong to one of them by observance, but to all of them by charity. We all need one another: the spiritual good which I do not own and possess, I receive from others … ‘”
Of course, no one wants to be alone. Most of us are called to live in some kind of community life, a shared life. That might mean marriage. But religious life is not often thought of in our secular world as one of fraternity and friendship. And yet the strongest bonds of friendship can be realized in a monastery between lunchtime and recreation. Fraternity, friendship – that special bond between members – must be worked at. We must work for friendship in community life for the long term, whether in a family or in a religious community.
The lock on the tool room door
Yes, we are imperfect. I remember while living in the community that we eventually had to put a lock on the tool room door. This was not to keep out burglars, as we would do in a large city. It was to keep our own members honest – so that a hammer or drill was not left in someone’s kitchen for months and therefore unavailable to the others. So we work to build community. How is your community life? Do you work hard at friendship – enjoying one another’s company? Of helping one another? Of pulling out the deck of cards instead of the cell phone?
Friendship in community life is one important jewel for which young persons know is as important as food and water.
“For this peace is perfectly ordered and perfectly harmonious fellowship in the enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.” – St. Augustine, De civitate Dei 19:7 quoted.
The existence of communities relies on people being an authentic part of them. If you are wondering how to find people with vocations, read, Where are Catholic vocations?