Community in the 21st Century

Martyrdom of St. Josaphat by Jozef Simmler
Martyrdom of St. Josaphat by Jozef Simmler

God made us, the human race, for unity, communion, a common life. We all have unique endowments and irreplaceable contributions to make to our life together. No one should ever impede any individual’s right to make his or her unique contribution. But the individual is not the fundamental measure of humanity. We cannot survive alone. We cannot thrive alone. We cannot reach our destiny alone. Social animals. We need each other; each of us is made for communion with others.

During the twentieth century, people called Christianity an enemy of communal, social life, claiming that we have an overly individualized spirituality and concept of salvation.

That criticism strikes us as preposterous now. In the 21st century, the Church is practically the only vital multi-generational volunteer community organization left in most American neighborhoods.

If we desire communion; if we seek our true destiny as human beings, to share our lives with each other; if we want to live in a wider world, instead of just a cocoon—church is the place to do it. Church is practically the only place. The possible exception being good teenage athletes, who have other venues for communal life. And there are runners’ clubs and training groups for marathons and 10Ks. Otherwise, it’s either the weird world of socializing by staring at a little metallic nugget in your hand, or church.

No surprise, really. Christ founded the Church, and endows Her with His life, to overcome the divisions among men that sin inveterately causes. One Church, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all: this is how the human race achieves unity.

Three hundred ninety-two years ago today, St. Josaphat suffered martyrdom for the cause of true human community. He died rather than abandon the idea that God unites the human race in one family.

Our 20th-century critics would have scoffed at the idea that the Pope of Rome unites the human family as the one, true universal father. But now we can ask, with unassuming humility, as sons and daughters of the 21st century: Who, other than the Pope? To whom can we look, as the head of a genuine worldwide family of mankind—other than the Pope?

St. Josaphat recognized this, back in the 17th century. The holy Ukrainian martyr gladly went to his death in witness to the universality of the Church. I think we can say that the idea for which St. Josaphat died is even more urgent and necessary today than it was on November 12, 1623.


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