Thursday, December 27, 2012

Need for Basic Christian Communities

Catholic media in Korea has for some time  emphasized in stories and articles the importance of community in our spiritual life. With the ascendency of individualism in society this has been a very difficult sell. The Catholic Times' journalist headlines his article with: "Need to Bring Joy into the Life of Community."  Community life, it is true, often interferes with  individual plans and for many becomes an obstacle to participation in community activities.

One Catholic asked, "Do I have to go to confession? I have not sinned. I pray the rosary morning and evening, and never miss Mass. Why do I have to go to confession?"  The priest asked what have you done for the poor? Have you prayed for the poor? The parishioner replied, "Do I also have to do that?"

This is the way a priest explains individualism as it appears in parish life. More than something wrong, he hears this with sadness. In the Our Father we pray 'Our' but many still ask only for what satisfies personal needs.

In response to this situation, the Korean church, realizing that many Catholics were satisfied with a personal faith life  has in recent years endeavored  to bring small community life more directly into the life of our Christians, increasing fellowship, connecting faith life with daily life, and strengthening the Christians' initiative and spontaneity.  The efforts have not all been successful, sometimes colliding with problems already existing within some parishes.  However, even with the problems it is a good alternative, the columnist believes, to a distorted individualism.

One pastor quoted by the journalist wrote that the small community initiative was encouraged by the Second Vatican Council and is a sign of the future direction of the Church. It's a way of incorporating the poor into the life of the church and bringing joy and intimacy into the community.

At the beginning of the Church, these small communities gave life to the Church. In our own Korean beginnings, the early Christians were not interested only in their own salvation. Even in difficult circumstances, they were living according to the teachings of the church, and going out to their neighbors in love. Recently, the building of large parish churches has closed many mission stations where community life was strong. When the mission stations joined the large parish communities, there was a loss of intimacy and a feeling of alienation.

Bringing back the joy of a shared faith life will be an important part of the future Church. Dioceses are working to make the small Christian communities an attractive option for their members and consider this an important pastoral initiative. One pastor expresses the hope that ultimately those working to build community, when they experience the joy, satisfaction and benefits of community, will be the movement's best teachers.                                                             

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