This is a continuation of a fifteen part series called “The Vision of an Ideal Parish” based on an article by Dr. Peter Williamson called ”Vision of Ideal Parish In Light of the Paradigm of the Apostolic Church” published in 2016.
Its kinda’ like four-year-old soccer. I’m referring to our natural instinct for community. I’m sure most people have seen four-year-old soccer… its cute; tedious…but cute. All that the little kids know is that the game has something to do a ball, a net, and an opposing team; but outside of that, it’s pretty much a mosh-pit of little legs, distracted looks, random kicks, and the occasional pouting lip. But I’m not focused on all those things. The natural instinct that I am referring to is community. When kids get together they naturally congregate. Perhaps there is strength in numbers, perhaps there is comfort in closeness, perhaps there is a basic desire for connectedness; but, whatever it may be, the human person is communal by nature; even, in four-year-old-soccer.
And in the same way that human person is communal by nature; a parish is also communal by nature. After all, this is what it means to be created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). God Himself is a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Three in One. Recall that in the September 29th’s bulletin I stated that an ideal parish is Trinitarian: a community of persons. But today, in saying that an ideal parish is communal by nature I am referring the inner-workings of a parish.
You see, Christianity has nothing to do with that ‘rugged-individualism’ that is typified by James Bond. As Bishop Olmsted recently commented, it is ironic that a man named ‘Bond’ could never keep a stable relationship! But an ideal Catholic parish recognizes that its fundamental identity is communal in three ways. First, it gathers as a whole in “celebration,” especially in the Sunday Mass. Second, it forms medium sized “congregations” gathered by common interest or activity. At SFA these can be various stewardship groups that focus on specific needs of the parish family such as PSR, CYM, Catholic School, adoration, Tobit’s ministry, etc. Third, a parish community also forms small groups or “cells.” These tend to be focused on education, formation, or friendship; such as Bible Study, adult study groups, RCIA, or simply the regular gathering of friends for cards or dinner. The most important “cell” is the family, also called the “domestic Church.” This is the fundamental communal gathering of the Church upon which all community is founded; the healthier the family, so too, the healthier the parish.
So we are basically like a four-year-old soccer team: communal to the core. Whether in “celebration,” “congregation” or “cell,” God has made the human person social. Just as the bible described the early Church as “devoted to the…communal life” (Acts 2:42), so too the modern parish is intrinsically communal like the Trinity. But please… no pulling hair or kicking shins!