Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solidarity Forever


Rod Dreher has a post up about cohousing, which is evidently a new idea to him (it's not to me; I had a vaguely revolutionary boyfriend once who was interested in trying it, and had even gone to visit a cohousing community upstate to see if it might be for him; he was disappointed, though, that this particularly community was centered around caring for its elderly members, as his unstated, but real, hope was to recreate the free-love atmosphere of 1967).

Rod Dreher's post was timely for me. I miscarried over the weekend, and, since I knew this would happen and that I would need help with things like housework and childcare, I made a few phone calls on Friday while out with a friend and our children to try to arrange this with family members. My friend asked if I couldn't call my parish to find someone who could bring over a meal or two. The notion surprised me; I would never even have considered it, because that sort of thing doesn't happen in my community. I wonder it this is an indication that American Catholicism has diverged irrevocably from its roots in immigrant communitarianism, and it calls into mind all kinds of questions about the uncomfortable relationship between Catholic solidarity and American individualism (the latter of which, incidentally, Joan Didion blamed for the fiasco of the 1960s youth rebellion). Perhaps some of you are lucky enough to live in parishes or other faith communities where the members approach one another in the spirit of Christian charity. I wonder what that might be like. As it is, my experience as a Catholic has had little of the sense of loving community about it, which is something for which having an online community is a kind of antidote.

15 comments:

Jennifer F. said...

Thanks for pointing out that article. I hadn't seen it, but that's a topic that I'm very interested in. I think that the lack of cohesive communities in modern America is a huge issue, particularly for Catholics.

If you have any interest, there was a really interesting discussion on this topic in the comments to this post over at my site.

Thanks again for an interesting post!

Pentimento said...

Jennifer, thank you for your comment. I'm an admirer of your blog, which I discovered through Tertium Quid of From Burke to Kirk.

I live in a very anomalous neighborhood: an urban area with many young families, more than 90% of whom are practicing Catholics, and many of whom are recent immigrants (from Europe, incidentally, not central America). Nonetheless, there is little to no sense of cohesive community here. I am really going to pray about this and try to discern if there is any contribution I might be able to make toward a solution.

Fallen Sparrow said...

This is an issue that I am encountering in the friends that I meet who are in the Church; we still experience detachment from each other and it hurts. I'm fortunate to be part of a parish that is really trying, and also working on getting friends together on a regular basis to let them know they're not alone.

The internet is changing things, as well, as I find myself communing with Catholics through my blog and through reading theirs. I'll keep praying for you!

Pentimento said...

F.S., I used to attend Mass at your parish; it wasn't my geographical parish, but it wasn't far away and was easy to get to. I made friends there and had high hopes about it, but when I got married I moved to a neighborhood from which it is very difficult to get to that parish. I think this is an overlooked problem. It's assumed that you can get anywhere from anywhere in New York City, but in fact location can be prohibitive, which also cuts down on the formation of "communities of volition." Thanks for the prayers.

Drusilla said...

Pentimento -

I'm so sorry for your miscarriage and for the lack of community you are experiencing in the Church. Fallen Sparrow, I and others get together as he mentioned. Perhaps you could join us at least at times. We have no fixed location or times for meeting so perhaps we could meet in an area in or near your neighbourhood. You are welcome to email me at allisurd-at-gmail-dot-com (just replace all the obvious stuff).

God bless ou and I'll keep you in my prayers.

Mikaela D'eigh said...

Thanks to Mr. F for sending this to me. An interesting topic. Perhaps the problem is the size of our parishes and the number of Masses? I agree that American individualism is definitely partly to blame, but when you're dealing with a parish with over 3 - 5000 families each, it is easy to become lost in the shuffle.

I would assume that small parishes where this sort of community happens still exist in more rural places. I certainly noticed a difference simply in moving an hour north from my medium-sized hometown.

Anyone have a different experience?

Mrs. T said...

We've had friends involved in co-housing projects. I instinctively love the idea, while my husband, more a realist, recoils.

We're converts to Catholicism, coming from a Methodist/Anglican background, and have been struck, too, by the comparatively anonymous "feel" of the Catholic parish experience (though that's not always a bad thing when you're fumbling around at your first-ever Catholic Mass, or your kid is the one shouting, "Is it OVER YET, Mom?" during every lull in the liturgy. NOBODY knows me -- what a relief.).

Where we have found cohesion and support and people who bring food and take care of each other in times of crisis is in our Catholic homeschooling support group -- I guess that's a community of volition. We live in a fairly sprawling Southern city, and our group is spread out over parishes in two states, actually, but that's who goes into high gear whenever anyone gets wind of anyone's needing anything. I've been in churches with a far greater level of congregational cohesion than what we experience in our current Catholic parish; but I've really never seen anything like these homeschoolers. These are people who are serious, intentional Catholics, who have their Corporal Works of Mercy committed to heart . . . that may have something to do with it, above and beyond basic personal niceness. In our parish, at least, that kind of catechetical formation isn't really a given -- it's all "Jesus loves us because we are special." Hm.

Tertium Quid said...

We will try to be your cyber brothers and sisters. When I was a Protestant, I defined "fellowship" as those people in the land of the living with whom I attended church and talked about God.

Now I defined "fellowship" as what Edmund Burke called the "community of souls," living, dead, and yet to be born. Sometimes I feel closer to them than to my living neighbors. St. Gianna Beretta Molla, St. Thomas More, St. Therese, and others have become my friends.

Do you know "The Servant Song?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL3vStmoMDw

Kind regards, TQ

Pentimento said...

Thank you, T.Q., Drusilla, Mikaela, and Mrs. T. I love that song, T.Q. The first time I heard it was in London at a little university chapel when I was there for a gig a few years ago. I cried and cried, and the priest, a very kind Indian, invited me for "fellowship" itself after Mass, but I was too beside myself.

My miscarriage was incomplete and is going to have to be completed with surgery (this happened last time too). I am nervous about this, as the doctor wanted to avoid surgery because I have a history of complicated uterine surgeries. Please pray for me.

Fallen Sparrow said...

Prayers going up.

Dawn Eden said...

Ditto Fallen--prayers goingup.

Mikaela D'eigh said...

I like what T.Q. said about the community of souls. Sort of like, your friends are the family you choose.

Our rosary group is praying for you! Let us know when your surgery is scheduled.

Pentimento said...

Thank you for your prayers, and may God reward you for your kindness. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday (St. Anthony's Day) at 11 AM.

Mrs. T said...

I wish I had checked back -- I only just now saw the item about the surgery. Retrospective prayers . . .

Pentimento said...

Thanks, Mrs. T. It went well. It's amazing how smoothly these things go when they're prearranged; last time it was done emergently. It was as good an experience as it could be this time, under the circumstances. Thank you all for your prayers and fellowship.