All posts tagged: community

School as Personalist Community

Education is power. I’ve heard this many times, and I don’t disagree. However, our educational system is in crisis. Our diocesan schools are in crisis, and the solutions coming from the top don’t really seem to be helping. Parish schools continue to close. Test scores don’t actually measure the health of a school or the quality of the learning taking place there. More parents are seeking other options, choosing to homeschool or find alternative models. There is less and less faith in institutional schools, and as families pull out, the sense of community in these institutions falters. As a parent, I totally get it. I too find it difficult to trust the education of my children to a large scale operation that often seems bureaucratic and distant. I like to think outside the box, something many “old-school” schools aren’t comfortable with. I would like to offer, however, that the solution is perhaps simpler than a complete overhaul of the system. I would like to offer that a school can become a place of joyful learning …

The Good of Communal Life

Note: For two years in the Echo program, one commits to living in Christian community with anywhere from two to five others, drawn together by serving the Church, praying together frequently throughout the workweek, and spending one evening each week specifically dedicated to growing in knowing each other and building a common life together. I sat at my community’s small dining room table with my heart overflowing in gratitude. The events of that evening gave me occasion to pause and consider the ways that I have been blessed to live in an intentional faith community with Sean, Shaughn, and Stephanie. With a plastic tiara on my head, toy scepter in my right hand, and a still-novel engagement ring on my left hand, I realized that my community had planned an evening to celebrate my recent engagement within our home.  They had known of the soon-to-be engagement for months, and kept the secret; now, reunited in our community apartment, they wanted to share in this life-changing joy. In two years of living together, my fellow apprentices …

Notre Dame Vision: Reality Imagined

Reality ignites our imaginations more than possibility does. We can imagine amazing things but only when we first look at what is real and in front of us. Reality reveals possibility, and that is what Notre Dame Vision did to me. My mom is indefatigably resourceful. She looked up opportunities I never would have bothered to find. My junior year of high school, she found a retreat at Notre Dame and sent me the website’s promotional video. Being a high school boy, I watched it while inhaling dinner. I was sold. I was less sold on Notre Dame the institution. My college search had been unexciting. Though I was going to Vision, one thing was certain: Notre Dame was not Catholic enough. Two days at Vision ended that illusion and Vision turned out to be pivotal for my faith. That summer poured gasoline all over the flame I’d received at Confirmation that year. It introduced me to the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila, “Christ has no body now but yours,” a prayer that …

“Parks and Recreation”: Icon of Community

Over the past several months, I’ve been rewatching NBC’s comedy series Parks and Recreation, which is, in my opinion, one of the most quietly wonderful shows ever to be on television. Having seen every episode at least once now, I think I’ve figured out what made the show work so well (or, more accurately, what made it work so well once its writers figured out what they wanted it to be). Parks and Rec works because its characters are better together than they would be alone. Fans of the show undoubtedly recognize themselves in one or more of the characters (I’ve been cast as Leslie Knope by multiple friends, and I’ve cast my own friends as Ron Swansons, Donna Meagles, even April Ludgates), and it is this recognition that also serves as a reminder that we are made better human beings by the other people in our lives than we could ever become on our own. Leslie’s overachieving drive and relentless enthusiasm needs to be tempered by Ron’s taciturnity, Ben’s pragmatism, and Ann’s steadiness. On the …

A Vision of Heaven: Dorm Community as Christian Community

How good it is and how pleasant when kindred dwell as one. —Psalm 133:1 A wise priest once held up for me, as an image of spiritual maturity, the Gospel story of the Visitation. Luke narrates the story of Mary running to Elizabeth immediately following Mary’s own visitation by an angel. Told by the angel that Elizabeth is with child, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. Why? In the story of Mary’s annunciation, the angel announces to Mary her startling new vocation, and immediately follows that with the magnificent work that has been done in Elizabeth by God. Elizabeth’s bearing a child in her old age is given to Mary as a miraculous sign of grace. Rather than running to Elizabeth to announce her own monumental good news, as one might expect, Mary goes to Elizabeth to delight in Elizabeth’s good news. Mary, the model of all discipleship, models for us a radical call to rejoice in the other. But Elizabeth’s response to Mary elevates the scene to a still more excellent image. Elizabeth cries out: …

Vision for Young Adults: A Summer Retreat for 20- and 30-Somethings

The goal of Notre Dame Vision for Young Adults (YA) was simple. Bring together a group of individuals for a week of prayer, reflection, and rest. The idea was to set a simple schedule where people gather together to pray Morning and Evening Prayer and attend daily Mass together, to listen to and reflect about professionals living out their faith, and to delight in the company of others and the quiet of a summer on campus at Notre Dame. If I am totally honest, my expectations were pretty modest. Perhaps the modesty of my expectations was due to my doubt about the saints. One of the many spiritual pitfalls is treating the communion of saints as (and only as) historical Christian giants who have made it possible for me to consider the different roads that lead to Christ. Ignatius taught me to consider the experience of God; Francis led me to constant material critique; Blaise to be careful when eating chicken wings; and Cecilia to make music part of my prayer. The litany of the …

Prayer of the Heart: Solitude and Community

The late philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said that religion is what one does with one’s solitude. There is a certain truth in that observation in that one encounters God by a personal reaching out if the encounter is a genuine one. At the same time, however, the solitary experience of faith hardly sums up the totality of the life of faith. It is true, as the New Testament teaches us, that Jesus frequently sought out quiet places, often before dawn, to pray alone. However, that solitary prayer must be seen against Jesus’ pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem, his visits to synagogues, his participation in prayer with his disciples, and the other observances incumbent upon a faithful Jew. The well-worn cliché “I am spiritual but not religious” can be understood as a preference for my spirituality as opposed to membership in a religion. The cliché is a testament to the American tendency to prize the power of individuality. That dichotomy, however, from the Christian perspective, is an insufficient one overly dependent on notions of …