Over the past year, humankind has been made to, in many ways, deny a piece of us that is absolutely vital to our flourishing. The pandemic has separated, isolated and created unfortunate barriers between us. We have been unable to see the smiles of passersby, shake the hands of those in nearby pews, and band together with strangers to sing along to a live band or root for the home team. This tragic isolation has hurt individuals and, indeed, harmed humanity as a whole. We desperately need good, true and holy community in order to breathe life into our dry, broken bones.
Despite introverted tendencies, I have always felt drawn to community — authentic community such as we read about in Acts 4. For a long time, however, I believed that this type of community where all members are “of one heart and mind” and share “everything in common” existed only on the pages of the New Testament and certain dreamy, far-fetched novels. Over time, though, I witnessed such beautiful gatherings of humanity in sweet little snatches that increased my desire for this deep fellowship: a gathering of young and old in a family’s toy-strewn living room to pray the Rosary as one chorus of devoted voices; the Dominican sisters that taught at a local grade school and lived together in the two-story brick convent; the students at my college that met at the old chapel every afternoon for Mass. These assemblies of souls exuded a zealous love and joy that made one want to be in the center of it all. They shared a thirst and were carrying each other along to the great fount that would slake it.
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When, six months into our marriage, my husband and I bade farewell to familiarity and moved across the country, we felt utterly alone. The trials were many. At times, we felt as if we were collapsing beneath the weight of so many burdens. We needed some St. Simons to help us carry these crosses. We needed Thomas Mores and John Fishers to help us navigate living the Faith in a world hostile to Christianity. We needed Marthas and Marys to open their doors and welcome us into warmth and light and love. We needed the community that I had, for so long, pined after but never actually grasped. As always, the Lord provided.
We fell into a group of families that met every month to share a meal and, amid the delightful chaos of chattering children, discuss life and the Faith. For the first time, I saw the beauty of vulnerability — of sharing one’s greatest joys and deepest wounds, one’s closeness with Christ or one’s inability to hear his voice, one’s holy thirsts and tempting hunger. Through this vulnerability, we grew close. We became for each other what we all desperately needed: light for the ever-darkening path to truth, strength for the increasingly difficult battles, and hope that we were not alone in it all.
Even after the pandemic struck and forced souls apart, we continued to gather. For a time, we were unable to receive Christ’s body. But we knew: we are the Body of Christ, called to live in communion with each other. As Caryll Houselander wrote in “The Reed of God”: “Each one of us can only live a fragment of Christ’s life at one time. … But through our communion with one another because of his one life in us all, we make up what is wanting in one another and are whole; and in us all, as one Body, his whole life is lived.” Each one of us has Christ within, so when we obey his command to love one another, we find him and we love him.
Thus, this seems to be the beauty of community: When we gather together, thirsting for the same love, we will find it in each other. We will find him, and we will be unafraid of what the world holds, what the world says, what the world breaks and burns. We will be unafraid to live for the Lord, because we will know him.
Of course, the devil will dance when we are forced to hide from each other, to take Christ within us and tuck it away in our own personal corner of the world not to be seen or shared with another. He will dance because we will fail to see Christ, the one who is victorious over all. We will, in solitude, fall into the lie that victory is unattainable.
Imagine, though, what would happen if we began to gather to witness Truth himself unfolding in each other’s lives. Imagine what would happen if we began to truly encourage each other to take up sword and shield and fight the good fight. Imagine what would happen if we flung open our doors and welcomed others in so that, together, we could proclaim, “Life is beautiful!” The devil would cease his dancing, for the beautiful symphony of truth and beauty and goodness would begin reverberating across the earth — and the devil does not know how to dance to that tune.
The realization of this coming together does not have to be anything groundbreaking. Quite the contrary. It can — and should be — simple and real and raw. We do not need clubs and conferences and committees. We simply need kitchen tables and cups of coffee and hearts blazing with love for Christ. We need only to open our doors and strive to become saints with and for each other.
The world may be full of disease and death, riots and rage, and great hostility toward anyone walking in the light. We may be tempted to play it safe, shut ourselves in and hide from it all. In doing this, though, we will never be triumphant. If, however, we band together, cling to each other and step into the mayhem, we may stumble, but we will never fall. And, ultimately, we will reach the highest heights, the fount that will fill us, Love himself for which we all long. Together, we will be victorious. Together, we will dance.