Sacrament and Community

Dear Apostoli Viae Family,

I am at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra California – a joyful expression of self-giving of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. As many of you know, the reason I am here is to promote awareness and devotion to the person and work of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity. By God’s grace we were able to initiate a celebration that has become the national celebration for her canonization for the United States. Today we will have a kind of festival, reflections, and then Mass provided by Archbishop Gomez.

You are all on my mind in a powerful way as I pray this morning and meditate on this event, Saint Elizabeth’s unique devotion to the Most Holy Trinity and the profound insights of Pope Benedict the XVI whom I miss in a painful way.

Pope Benedict reflects that to assume that our participation at mass is to ensure own own private spiritual health is a supreme misunderstanding of what a sacrament truly is.

He asserts that Christianity, “by its very nature, is a mystery of union. The essence of original sin is the split into individuality which knows only itself. The essence of redemption is the mending of the shattered image of God, the union of the human race through and in the one Jesus Christ.”

The challenge we face in our culture is a radical isolationism that severely damages our ability to know union with God even as faithful Catholics. Catholic culture and thus authentic Catholic community no longer exists in the U.S. except in very unusual circumstances.

Pope Benedict goes on to say, “Union is redemption for it is the realization of our likeness to God, the Three in One. But union with Him is accordingly, inseparable from and a consequence of our own unity.”

My vision for Apostoli Viae is that we restore the shattered image of God through the shattering of isolation. That we destroy the distortion of God in our time as we restore authentic Christian community.

My vision is not of a community that merely provides formation and fellowship but one that reveals and lives the truth that we cannot ascend the narrow way alone and that we must depend on others on the journey.

This dependence is not a mere affinity of the faithful but a radical authentic love that allows for vulnerability and interdependence.  It is radical because it is so dramatically different from our culture. It is vulnerable because its members transcend the fear of interdependence knowing that without it, we risk a deadly isolation. When we are not vulnerable to one another, we make ourselves more vulnerable to the enemy of souls.

As the darkness descends only those who hold on tightly to God and one another will survive and provide a light to the world as it slogs into the gates of hell.

Of this I am sure to the depths of my being, the gates of hell will not prevail against the strength of one who clings to Christ, to His Church and to the expression of His Church that results in authentic and life-changing community.

God bless you. Be assured I carry you with me in prayer in a special way today.

Yours in Christ,

Dan – Unum est Necessarium

5 thoughts on “Sacrament and Community”

  1. As I read your words from Sacrament and Community, I am struck at how prophetic they are. I agree with you totally. In order to be a guiding light to the world, we must hold onto Jesus Christ, His Truth, His Church and be in union with one another, in love, as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to strive for personal holiness by increasing virtues and all the while help one another along the narrow pathway to Heaven and use all the gifts that we have been given by God for His greater Glory. This is serious business and has serious consequences for each one of us, our families, friends and the world. When Jesus comes again, will He find any faith on earth? Let us determine to be part of His Holy, united, remnant Church on earth, if we are fortunate enough to be here when Jesus comes again in His Glory.

  2. Dear Judy,
    I am praying now: may the doors be opened for you which God desires to be opened and those close which need to be closed. May you hear Him guiding you in the direction He is calling you and wants you to be. May you feel His peace and comfort as you discern His will for you. Let us pray for those making decisions at EWTN for all to fall into place as needed. -Teresa

  3. FYI: I received the email from Dan regarding this post, but I did not receive the automated message about this post from WordPress.

    As I read this post, what came to mind was my own experience of Christian community. I have never formally studied what makes good community life, I’ve only experienced community life… the good and the bad. As I reflect on authentic Christian community, I find it hard to put into words what exactly makes healthy community. Of course there are always good guidelines for external practices, But interiorly, I can only describe what authentic Christian community feels like.
    Authentic Christian community requires interdependence, but does not allow for psychologically unhealthy co-dependence. In Authentic Christian community, there is communion without loss of individuality. Authentic Christian community allows for freedom of its members… a true reverence for the work of the Holy Spirit in each person, not a forced conformity to a particular charism. Authentic community requires vulnerability, but this vulnerability leads to freedom and communion, not to unhealthy attachments because of poor boundaries.

    I don’t know if this makes sense, it’s just that I have felt the weight of unhealthy attachments in community, but I have also experienced the joy and freedom of being loved as I am (warts and all) in Christian community.

    One thing I know to be true is “When we are not vulnerable to one another, we make ourselves more vulnerable to the enemy of souls.” Praise God for the gift of each other! He has made Himself present to us in our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  4. Your beautiful, very true, words resonate deeply with my own soul level conviction; a conviction that has become only more clear to me over the course of years of prayer and experience in the Body of Christ. Our culture is one that embraces the illusion of independence; independence from God and independence from others. This illusion has certainly infected the Body of Christ and you are absolutely correct- this illusion leads to a “deadly isolation” that does leave us vulnerable to the enemy of our souls. This illusion also leads to sicknesses of body, mind and spirit.

    The Holy Trinity invites us into ever deeper union with the Three Persons of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we are conscious of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity and are consumed with zealousness for the Lord and love that overflows, we become a living invitation to unity. Ours is the ministry of Jesus Christ; the ministry of reconciliation, of reconciliation with God and of reconciliation with all peoples.

    And yet the “radical isolationism” that infects us does “severely damage our ability to know union with God even as faithful Catholics”. There have been times of such profound darkness and isolation in my own walk with the Lord that I have spiritually not been able to see my own hand in front of my face. There have been times when I have literally begged my Catholic brothers and sisters to remind me of the union of the Holy Trinity and how we are being drawn into that union, for all eternity. Sometimes only the sense of “deadly isolation” seems real and my brothers and sisters cannot seem to articulate even the hope of union with God.

    I love your vision for Apostoli Viae: “that we restore the shattered image of God through the shattering of isolation. That we destroy the distortion of God in our time as we restore authentic Christian community.”

    Since I have been Catholic, I have had almost a rabid desire to accomplish this within the community at my parish. But my efforts have only been short lived, at best- so far.

    One of the members of our parish took his own life. He and his wife were not connected to the community; they only attended Mass on Sundays. Before he died, his wife begged me to minister to him and to pray with them. I tried my very best but he was consumed by the sicknesses rooted within him by “deadly isolation”. After he died I was able to create a community of about 15 people to rally around his widow and love her deeply. It was such a short lived community though.

    I have started a Tuesday evening prayer group. So far there are 5 of us that meet regularly each week and a true community is being formed. They have communicated almost a desperate desire for union with God and for the union of community in our parish. How they have longed to be vulnerable, to share their struggles, to love and to be loved, to pray together before the Holy Tabernacle– with Jesus Himself in our midst!

    So, how do we begin to be vulnerable to one another and to cultivate interdependence? How do we begin to love one another authentically with a pure love that is rooted in the union of The Holy Trinity?

    Just 1 idea — could we maybe each load a short spiritual biography to our page on the AV site, one that includes our spiritual strengths and struggles and lists our ministries within The Body? Then maybe we can begin to know one another and communicate with one another in more than just superficial ways…. St. Catherine of Sienna said that the deepest human need is to know and to be known, by God and by other human beings…

    Thank you Dan for being so transparent about your own personal story during our last meeting. Your precedent and willingness to be vulnerable will surely help us to become more transparent with one another.

    I am a firm believer that prayer is the best way to form authentic community within The Body of Christ. It is very good that we will soon be able to read one another’s prayer requests and to pray that way. However, it would be an even more connective experience if we are actually able to pray together— to hear one another pray and to weave our prayers together.

    We are so grateful Dan, for all of the good gifts that you have given to us. I am sorry to be so ignorant of how much these things cost and I would certainly not ask for anything that would cost additional money….. Would it be cost prohibitive to create an occasional Zoom meeting for the purpose of coming together to pray so that we can hear each other pray and the Holy Spirit can weave our prayers together?

    I have never used Skype but do have it loaded to my computer. Does anyone know if Skype allows a conference call type of situation? Maybe it would be as simple as setting a time and getting together via Skype, something that would not cost any money at all….

    I begin each Tuesday evening prayer meeting at our parish with deep conversation, before the Holy Tabernacle. I ask those present to share themselves and their prayer requests. Then we pray together. Even in the span of a few short weeks, a true community is being formed. We are beginning to know each other and to become interdependent. This is surely a good path to authentic community but not the only path, by any means.

    Does anyone else have other ideas?

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