Friday, July 15, 2005

community and rules

We hear frequently today that young people are seeking community. The reasoning goes: we live in a terribly individualistic society and it creates uncertainty about the stability of personal relationships. This uncertainty drives persons into a quest for a strong community to which they can belong.

There is obviously truth to this. What isn't often mentioned is that the values of the individualistic society are so deeply ingrained in many young people today that they are unable to recognize community when they encounter it. This is often because true community requires stability and it requires common rules of behavior. In my experience, many of the young (and I'm still fairly young myself) find true community stifling and boring. What they seek is not so much community as affirmation. The conundrum here is that affirmation is won by suppressing one's personal impulses to a certain extent in order to accept the standards of behavior presupposed by the community. We have many young men visit us interested in monastic life. But for a fairly good portion of them, when they realize that part of that life has to do with undesirable sacrifices involving routine, rules, and authority (rules are otiose without an authority to interpret them and enforce them), they get the heebie-jeebies and bolt at the earliest covenient (for them, not for the community) moment. What a shame: if we are willing to submit ourselves to the community expectations, we stand a good chance of finding ourselves accepted, affirmed and loved. Conversely, if one gives little, he gets little.

Please join me in praying for the young for whom this radical commitment to Christ is so very difficult today. I write the above without any despair at all: indeed, if God can get me into religious life, there is certainly no reason to abandon hope.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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