A young woman asked me recently what would make a choice to be a religious sister different from one to be a single Catholic woman committed to prayer and service. My answer centered on the gift of community. To answer the call to religious life means to belong to a group bigger than oneself, embracing a common charism and mission and lovingly supporting one another. Shared prayer, meals and life experiences, efforts at open and honest communication, acceptance and affirmation of one another build powerful bonds. At its core, community life means we are deeply concerned for each one and the common good of all.
I liked what Jim Wallis of Sojourners recently wrote about common good: “The common good and the quality of our life together will finally be determined by the personal decisions we all make. The ‘commons’—those places where we come together. . .will never be better than the quality of human life.” He then gave suggestions, including:
- “Take the place you live seriously. Make the context of your life and work the parish that you take responsibility for.
- Seek to develop a vocation and not just a career. . . listen for your calling rather than just looking for opportunities. Remember that your personal good always relates to the common good.
- Make choices by distinguishing between wants and needs. Choose what is enough, rather than what is possible to get.
- Ask yourself what in the world today most breaks your heart and offends your sense of justice. Decide to help change that and join with others who are committed to transforming that injustice.”
Mr. Wallis’ suggestions certainly relate to living in religious community. Community life takes effort and is never perfect, but it is deeply graced. It is always a call to reach beyond our individual selves for a common good that keeps us united and firm in giving all to Christ. Well worth it!