Saturday, June 15, 2013

On Catholic Community

Let me first start out by saying that I love the Catholic Church. The beauty and truth it holds will never cease to amaze me. I know I belong within the Church.

I also love the community it comes with. Amelia's school has a beautiful community, and I love it. The families I have met from our parish and the school are completely wonderful, and I value our growing friendships.

That all said, we are missing something, friends. While we have a beautiful community, it is not a strong community. Parishes know this. Pastors know this. Some of us know this. But do we do anything about it? Are we willing to put ourselves out there and take a meal to a new mother? Are we willing to come over and do laundry for a family just because? Are we willing to bend over backwards for a family trying to live God's Word and make ourselves uncomfortable in order to benefit someone else? Do we rally behind families going through a tough time, or do we just send a card or some flowers and feel done? Do we get up early on a weekend and pray outside of an abortion clinic? Do we go to a food bank on Thanksgiving and volunteer? Do we offer to watch a mother's kids so she can go to the dentist or even just go to the store alone? Do we pop in for a visit when we know a family is down and out and lend a shoulder to cry on or help with something around the house? Do we make an effort to spend time with other families to build a closer bond?

Some of these things, sure. I know many faithful Catholics that do. But I also feel like there is a limit. We do one thing and feel good about that for a month or two and don't feel the need to reach out anymore. We put ourselves in our own little comfort zone and only step out about half way and then we retreat.

We use excuses like, "I have enough on my plate with my own family," "I don't have the money to do anything of value for someone in need," "I don't have time," "I have already made a meal for a family this month," "I'm busy," "I'm tired," "I.... I.... I.... I..."

Now here's where I'm going to get controversial. The Mormon Church does not have this problem. I know some people think they are TOO involved, that they are trying to keep you in their Church by constantly involving themselves in your life... Well, yeah... they are, I assume. But is that a bad thing? Is it a horrible thing to have someone pop in and check on you, pray with you, read scripture with you, maybe wash your dishes, or something like that? Is it such a bad thing that if you are stuck in another country you know that the community would move mountains to make sure you are taken care of? If you were about to lose your house, to be provided for? If you needed a break, a lending hand? If you are struggling through an adoption and they are there to rally, listen, and work out a solution?

There is likely a happy medium between the Mormon community and what the Catholic community should be. Catholics do so much charity work, but we need to be more personal. We need to force ourselves to get to know those in our community. We need to provide for the people in our community that legitimately need us. We need to take care of our own.

We also need to look within ourselves and ask what we can do for someone else. On a weekly basis, at least. And we need to ask for help when we need it. We not only have to help people, we have to accept help.

I know many Catholics that are wonderful at this sort of thing. Many of us, including myself, are not great at it. But if we were all putting forth an effort to build a stronger community, our Church would blossom into something even more beautiful, because we have the Truth. Jesus wants us to succeed and He wants us to do his work, and I believe His work includes having a strong community.

I love our Church. But it makes me feel very alone.

Society is falling apart at the seams. But our community could flourish and grow stronger with just a few simple acts of kindness and general concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ.



  1. Hugs, friend. I wish I was there and we could do this for each other. :(

    You bring up something that makes me think of the Screwtape Letters - our ability, as humans, to create this false dichotomy between our immediate surroundings and the "outside world" (I can't remember the exact terminology used by Lewis - it's been awhile). Basically, though, that we make everything that's impersonal - the third world countries, the "others" like the pregnant moms we don't know who need help and support, all of those charities far away (like the mission field) - what is virtuous and good, and everything that's personal - our immediate surroundings and family, basically - full of vice. I think part of that is natural - it's easier to romanticize that which we don't know of personally (we don't know the individual faults of the missionaries, for example, like we do our own family members) - but I think that it can, like you point out, break down the good and beauty of a community. How do we move past that and see the virtue and beauty in those closest to us?

    Hmm. Lots to think about and a lot to challenge myself to do better. Thanks for writing it out. :)

  2. I feel very alone in the Church, too. One of the problems, in my opinion, is that parishes are just too big. There are too many people for a real community to happen. I wouldn't even know where to start to find out if someone needed help, as the secretary is anything but helpful.

  3. To both Kim and Heidi, a friend mentioned today that she thinks the problem is that people think it is either that you need help or that you are giving help, one or the other. That isn't necessarily true.

    If we all started doing one easy thing when we see a need, things would change quickly. The excuses are what get to me in real life.

    People need to be willing to help build community. That includes asking for fellowship or help when you need it, and filling a need.

    I am grateful for how wonderful the community is, but we have a long, long way to go when there are so many young mothers out there angry and struggling and no one cares enough to notice. I've talked to a few lately and it makes me really sad.

    In a 2,000+ years old church, I find this extremely unacceptable. There should be no reason for loneliness, lack of fellowship, lack of ministry, etc.

    For the record, this is what I ask of myself constantly. What can *I* do to help this issue. And I force myself to take action. Because nothing is going to change if I wallow or make excuses.

  4. I just have no idea how I would even go about finding out who needs help. For one, I don't see many young mothers at our church. It's mostly upper-30 married couples with one or two kids. As an aside, there aren't many young mothers where I live as it isn't a "starter" community. People tend to move here after they are established and have money (thereby being older and having older kids).

    1. It's not really all about helping someone, but it's Bout stepping out and making friendships. Maybe joining a ministry is a good place to start, I don't know, but there are ways.

  5. I think I'll ask, though, if the church knows of anyone in need of anything.

  6. Kara, I couldn't agree more. We just moved back to California from Korea. In Korea, our parish was very small, because it was on a military base. There were tons of opportunities for involvement, and the sense of community there was very strong. Now we are back at a big church and I find myself itching to reach out and do something. Pray for me!

  7. This is a very good topic for discussion in our modern church. I think our church is continuing to mature after Vatican II. My mother tells me of her Catholic Church experiences of pre-Vat. II. The laity's calling at that time, was to support religious communities in those callings. Catholic sisters were the first to offer healthcare to the poorest and neediest. Many communities focused on teaching and their services built the Catholic school system, which was free to very needy families. The immigrant experience also shaped the CC in America. The Church gives us lots of opportunities for outreach. In our parishes, it may be that you can start the ministry that you are passionate about. There is a saying in the Church - some give by going, and others go by giving. A seminarian once told me that to "pray first" about everything. I will pray that you will find the opportunity in your parish and that the Holy Spirit will direct you to do Holy Work in your parish. I give to Catholic Relief Services for work in developing countries and that supports people who put themselves in harm's way to help very poor and oppressed people. The Catholic Church has the largest charity outreach in the world!. I think the challenge is to look within the church to find your niche. I organized a blanket drive with my religious ed. class and we took the blankets to the soup kitchen, which also helps families with material needs. I used this project to build community with the 7th graders. We have lots of opportunities within our amazing church. Since we hold these Truths close to our hearts, it is a challenge and we can pray and reflect as to how we can say to Jesus "here I am Lord, use me", and also "I will follow you wherever you need me". The spiritual works of mercy also give us many ideas for outreach - going to funerals to pray for the deceased is a very common practice where I belong. The guidance we need is always within the Church. Read your bulletin for many good ideas and give a hearty welcome to strangers who you observe in your parish on Sundays. Pray first always - I memorized a prayer to give me guidance, a Holy Spirit prayer, and also used the Beatitudes as my guide. I believe this is a good topic for a lively discussion of how we can serve one another in the Body of Christ. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! Those are all the things I love about the Church. How willing we are to do the big things that hardly anyone else is. But, what I have a problem with is the lack of intimacy between parishioners. The fact that I can talk to a mother with 3 or more little ones who desperately wants more, but she's too worn to even consider it and is angry that the Church won't help her. She likely doesn't need anything more than fellowship and understanding and maybe some child care once in a while, but she doesn't get it. That makes me sad, to see so many people angry at the Church because our members are failing them. I struggle with this too. What can I do on a personal level to help? I just think the Church would benefit as a whole if we all made an effort to build strong and family-like community.

    2. Well, as a Mormon, I can say you are right to a degree that those problems are perhaps less within our church, but they are not non-existent. I live in Ohio, so I have the experience of being in a smaller congregation. I have a list of sisters that I am to contact at least monthly to fellowship and serve. But it doesn't stop there, we all band together to help when someone has surgery, death, illness or a new baby. When I lived in Idaho, however, we were in a huge congregation...and there were 6 of them in the small town where we lived. I never had people fellowship with me. I never had support. It. Was. Awful. So I think you are very right that the size of the congregation makes a big difference. The other thing I noticed is that parishes in affluent areas actually tend to do less than those in rural areas. That may not be true everywhere, but it has been pretty consistent in the places I have lived, and it crosses denominational lines. I would talk to your local parish leadership about what can be done, and start small. I actually started the "After the Airport" group on Facebook after several newly home moms expressed their isolation and lack of support from their local family and church communities. And I based it off of Mormon Relief Society, though I doubt most people would make that connection, and some may be upset if they did. There are lots of ways to reach out and I am sure your local Priest would be thrilled that you want to get something going (though I realize you are very busy right now) and I am sure you could get at least a few people to join with you. You're doing great, Kara! Love your heart!

    3. Michelle, thank you! I was hoping to hear from someone in your church!

      I do think a lot of it is lighting a fire under people to do something for others. Fellowship is a huge thing we're lacking. Our parish seems very active, and I need to find my niche (we've only been there a year, and it's been quite the busy year!). I'm hoping that by putting this out there, it will plant a seed

    4. One really cool thing we did when I was younger was monthly potluck dinners. I know, it sounds cheesy but the first Friday of the month, we'd all bring a dish to share and spend the evening enjoying each other's company while the kids ran and played together in the gym. Maybe you could get with some of the sisters in your parish and try to organize something like that. Call it a potluck or social or something and see where it goes. That is something I always loved. 4th of July picnic? Labor day BBQ? We see people coming out to those kinds of things that haven't been to church in years. I love it.

    5. There is actually a family that hosts a monthly rosary night that is potluck and I love it! I hope she continues, because I think it's really nice, and a great way to get to know people.

  8. Just found your blog via RR. Your family caught my eye since we're also in AZ (Phoenix). We're completed 2 Ukrainian adoption and are just waiting on our travel date for our third! I'd love to connect. If you're interested, you can leave a comment on my blog.


"If you can't say somethin' nice... don't say nothin' at all..." ~Thumper