Also known as: On Missing Community
A few days ago, I had to go to a World Youth Day pilgrims meeting at the new head office of the Catholic community I’m a part of. Or maybe I should say, was a part of, because even if I am still a member, I haven’t been attending any gatherings in the past…oh, three years? You see, once you’re in the community, you’re a member forever. You can disappear, but you can be a member by name.
So anyway, it’s been ages since I last attended. I haven’t been showing up because I was busy with work, and honestly, I felt like I’ve outgrown it. See, I grew up in community — I was a member of the Catholic community my parents belonged to since I was a kid. My parents, being community elders by then, attended all sorts of elder events, dragging me along. Being the youngest, I sort of had no choice but to go and do what they say (my older brother was cut a bit of slack there). So from being in the kids ministry, I joined the youth, and…that really made my life different.
I loved being in community. It was my second home, and I met most of my closest and best friends there. Not to mention that being in community brought me closer to God, which is the real point of being in one. I wouldn’t be who I am, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now if I didn’t spend all those years with them. Truth be told, I thought that I wouldn’t get tired of it, especially after that one year I took a break. I seriously thought I would even be working as a full time missionary, if not for the discernment and decision that led me to the corporate world.
But that doesn’t mean corporate world and community didn’t mix. Other people manage, so why didn’t I? Why couldn’t I?
I can’t say I don’t know really, but if I were to be brutally honest right now, I would say what I mentioned up there: I got tired of it. I loved it, but I got tired. My campus-based youth ministry experience during my junior and senior year in college was my mountain top. It wasn’t an easy time, but I can hardly remember the hardships because I was spiritually high. It’s a time I always looked back on fondly — I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God loves me, and that He is with me, and that with Him by my side, I can conquer anything (even, and especially, thesis). Not that I don’t believe in that any less now, but being with like-minded people made me grow in so many ways. I felt like I was so ready to conquer the world after I graduated, even with doubts of where I was heading for after. I mean, God’s on my side, right? Why fear?
Then I had to make the transition to the singles ministry because it was the right thing to do. I didn’t mind, and I found a new community I could call home immediately. Except that…it wasn’t. Not as much as campus was, anyway.
I guess you could call it arrogance. Being a leader for so many years in the youth ministry, it was kind of hard for me to go back to being a member when I got to singles. Oh, I liked being just a member, but I felt that since the people there know my history in the community (it’s not a secret, anyway, and people knew I almost tried for full time mission work), there was this certain pressure to be a leader immediately.
And that was exactly what happened. I liked the attention, yes. But the responsibility? I couldn’t. I was starting my new job then, too, and I was so excited for it that it (the new job) was all I could think of. And I couldn’t be bothered by meetings for my new function in community.
I tried attending. But I guess I didn’t try hard enough. Plus, again, arrogance on my part, I think. I felt that the sharing I hear from the others were things I already went through, and things I already know the answer to. Sort of, anyway. And perhaps it’s my impatience that showed then, because I couldn’t be bothered to care.
That was it. I couldn’t be bothered. I couldn’t care less. I was in community because I had to be, because it was expected of me. And then I just simply…stopped attending. And that was it.
I’d like to believe that it’s not just selfishness1. I knew that at some point in my life, I would have to learn to be on my own. I mean, community is like a crutch — it helps me stand, but I know I have to learn how to stand on my own. but what really matters is your relationship with God. I guess I wanted to see how it is by myself. It’s been a hard time, because God knows how many times I keep stumbling and falling and trying again. God knows how many times I cried for my campus days: Take me back, take me back. I want those days back. I want to be that high again.
I’m not saying I’m all good now, but it’s better. And I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past years that I’m out of community. It’s not that I haven’t seen my other friends in community outside of it anyway. It was kind of awkward, though, because they’ve obviously moved on without me, and even if I know I will be welcomed back easily, it would just be hard. Quite honestly, I try to avoid having close encounters with the people I know there because I know I can’t answer the question, Why aren’t you attending anymore? Oh, of course I’m busy, but isn’t everyone busy? Doesn’t everyone have work? What makes my busy-ness different from theirs?
But I missed it. Every now and then, I miss being in community. I miss having yearly conferences to go to, I miss meeting them every weekend, I miss going to households. And being in our community’s head office last week kind of amplified that. I missed hearing people say, “Praise God” when good things happen. I found it comforting to hear our WYD delegation head saying, “It’s all in God’s timing” about our visa applications. I missed hearing worship songs, and exhortations and prayers. I missed how it seems easier to be friends with people within the community because you share a certain something with them. Most of all, I missed starting a meeting with a prayer.
As if to further emphasize that missing feeling, on my way home that night, I ran into one of my former heads, the one who got me immediately transitioning to the singles ministry because he saw me at our village gate wearing a conference shirt. He even made sure I would go to the meetings by calling me the night before the meeting. I ran into him, and we talked for a bit and I told him I came from the CFC Center. He asked if I was already full time and I said no, and told him about WYD. Then before parting ways, I asked him for prayers. It sounded a bit odd in my mouth, because I haven’t really actively asked prayers from people for a long time now, and truth be told, I was expecting a weird look from it. But instead, he smiled and said, “Sure.”
I don’t know if I’m ready to go back. Maybe I’ll know after WYD in Spain. But one thing is for sure: I miss community.
- I don’t know if saying that still means I’m selfish — it’s like meta-thinking and that makes my brain hurt [↩]