Is Catholicism really more communal than other faith traditions within Christianity? Let’s not rest on our laurels or count on what we often tell ourselves. The fact is that Catholicism’s rich sacramental tradition is deeply communal, as are the stories we tell and values we share. But the actual experience of parish life is not. Quite typically it can be quite the opposite. Parishes are often quite large and have bureaucratic processes that replicate the bureaucracy of centralized church structures. If we want people to experience a sacramental church that is truly communal, we need to intentionally create parish experiences that foster such understandings. We need to identify existing practices that create community—such as an annual festival, for example—and build on what works. We need to build connections among smaller groups within parish life that are of a communal nature. We need to preach and teach about community. Community does not come naturally and is not a magic outcome of a sacramental system. In the past, it flowed as much from Catholic immigrant communities and ethnic traditions that were often close to forms of peasant communalism in a European past. It seemed to be natural to the Catholic tradition, but in reality it was a product of wider cultural forces, ones that were intentionally embraced by the parish. Today the parish needs to find new ways to embrace communalism wherever it can find it. The future of the church is not something that will arise accidentally. It will come about as we work for what we want. © 2007, Bryan Froehle.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted