Community life has taken many shapes down through the ages, from early simple tribal communities to the mega cities of the 21st Century. One type that was prominent in the 15th Century at the outset of the Protestant Reformation was the monastery. St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists first lived in a Hermitage with his brother John Baptist and eventually moved to a “Retreat” at Mount Argentario.  Today Passionist often call their homes, monasteries.
Today there are arising new types of communities, one such community is the virtual community. Wikipedia defines a virtual community as “A social network of individuals who interact through specific social media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals.”
This article you are reading is on a Blog (web log) a type of social media. Blogs used to be written by one individual, but today more and more blogs are being written by groups of people with similar interests. My hope with the Community of Passionist Partner’s Blog is that we can develop such a group or community, i.e. a virtual community where we all can post articles of interest to us.
Who are we? Our mission statement which can be found on the “About Us” page of this blog states: “We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.” Hopefully you’ve seen this happening on our CPP Blog to a greater or lesser extent. Even more hopefully, you’ll join in through sharing your writing, your comments or simply your reading.
 Mercurio, Roger, Sucher, Frederick, The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Vol 1, New City Press (2000)
Students in training to become medical doctors early on encounter some foundational principles for conducting themselves in the medical profession. And one principle goes back a long way, to the Greek world and the wording of the Hippocratic oath: DO NO HARM. That’s the first rule for a budding physician to learn: not DO GOOD, but, rather, DO NO HARM.
It’s interesting that a budding doctor is advised to void injuring someone, before being counseled to help someone. There’s an issue here of comparing good and evil, and it applies beyond the medical field into the personal and private field of our own personal lives. If one of us was asked: what is more important: to avoid hurting someone, or to do something good for someone, how would I answer that question?
For instance, if I found myself before someone, and I had to make a sudden decision between “don’t hurt that person” and “do something kind for that person”, what would I decide? This is a pretty simplistic reduction of a real life situation, and we could easily argue about the “either/or” scenario presented here, namely, that one melds into the other. However, there are life situations where the melding doesn’t occur so easily, as when I’m talking to another and I have to decide
between telling the person one truth, which hurts/harms him/her, or telling the person another truth, which benefits/helps him/her. DO NO HARM, DO GOOD TO EVERYONE.
As a follower of Christ, how do I steer myself properly between these opposites? As a Christian, am I to be primarily known as one who never hurt anyone (never said a bad word about anyone?), or as someone who always said the truth, come what may (whose word was as good as gold?) Would you rather have a physician who never hurt you, or one who always helped you feel better? Does Jesus’ life teach us anything about this? How would I want to live my life: in a way that never hurt anyone, or in a way that always helped someone? After all, I may never hurt anyone but also never do anyone any good at all, or I may always manage to help everyone but in doing so never hurt them at all.
Almost all monastic communities, and yes the Passionist Community take a vow of poverty. In an earlier blog I referred to Sister Maureen Fiedler’s article in the National Catholic Reporter June 15 titled Traditional Vows redefined for the 21st Century. In this article she says:
“So what might a 21st-century vow look like? There are, of course, many possible answers. Someone today might embrace a “vow of sharing” (with other community members or the world at large), or a “vow to live simply” in a world overstuffed with commodities.”
Remembering that article I offer a moment of simple delight by clicking on the above Youtube video. Enjoy!
This is the first of a number of blogs looking into monasteries. Why monasteries? Not just because the Passionists live in monasteries, but more importantly, monasteries have a long history dating back thousands of years. A monastery according to Wikipedia “denotes the building or complex of buildings, comprising the domestic quarters and workplace(s) of monastics…living in community or alone (hermits). “
That of course is little reason to look into monasteries. But Pope Francis gives us a hint why this might be a valuable avenue of investigation in his visit this past week to a monastery in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. He says in the above video “To live in contemplation with Jesus, God and man and to lead a life in community with a great heart enduring and forgiving…to treat one another with patience which often requires understanding…the monastery is a family even with all its problems.”
I wonder if life would be much different if we lived that way in our families and communities?
Many of us appreciate art. With its reliance on beauty, art can convey a message that other media cannot match. For this reason art has played a major role in the history of the church. The famous Vatican Museum in Rome has gathered together some of the great art produced over the ages, especially paintings by some of the great masters. Do any of us have a favorite kind of art, or, an art piece that depicts a certain religious scene or scenario? Would it correspond to what are undoubtedly the favorite religious scenarios that have attracted the attention of artists down the centuries? Surely two of these favorites are The Crucifixion scene, and the Madonna and Child. Which of these two, in your estimation, has captured the most artistic attention? And which is your favorite? Why might that be so?
Thank you Kevin for your honesty and sharing. I have a number of friends who suffer like you do from depression and I must admit, I’m not much of a help. I’ve heard it said that depression is anger turned inward. Well, I usually turn my anger outward, I attack. I don’t advise this, I’m just admitting that is my first reaction, I want to attack. It almost doesn’t matter who’s around either, but whoever is, they will probably receive the brunt of my anger.
I believe we must learn to deal with anger. Thich Nhat Hanh has written a book called “Anger”. In this book he gives us a number of ways on how to deal with anger. One is compassion. This may be difficult to arrive at, but I find when I am able to stop, stand back and shut up (practice the 3 s’s) I then have enough time to think that the other person must be suffering too. I am not the only one who suffers. This simple compassionate action actually stops the escalating nature of anger and brings it to an end.
OATS (see previous blogs) built community. In the 70’s we that believed witnessing to community was more important than preaching about community. We did not teach any particular doctrine but we did have a method for building community. That method was to practice the following steps.
Step 1—Hello how are you: At each meeting and every event we made it a point to welcome not only new members, but current ones as well.
Step 2—Function together: The heart and core of community building is doing something together. It really doesn’t matter what you do, but you must do something, like eating together, planning an outing or service ministry, having a discussion on a topic of interest, watching a video or whatever.
Step 3—Sharing: The heart and core of creating and keeping the community spirit going is sharing. Sharing cannot be forced or planned. The community leaders must be good at picking out real sharing when it occurs and fostering that. Leaders can help make sharing happen by creating an environment that is “safe” and “supportive”. If participants feel they are respected for whom they are, they will share.
So there you have it, how to build community in 3 easy steps.