Community is a matter of the heart and the mind. It cannot be created by place alone, and it cannot be destroyed by distance alone. It is of the essence of the soul. What we identify with, what gives us a sense of purpose, of belonging, of support is our community.
In the Rule of Benedict, community is made up of common worship, common ownership, and common life. It is about drinking from the same well of belief and giving myself to the same life goals, and aims, and objectives as those with whom I have promised to make this journey.
Community means that we’re in this together. And if we’re lucky, it means that the group knows us well enough to be happy that we’re there.
Community building does not just happen. It cannot be taken for granted. It requires both great faith and great trust that is generated by a continuing display of great human care that begins with me, and then comes back to me. It takes a great deal of energy to create community, and in today’s world, community takes many shapes.
The kind of community for which the ancient Rule of Benedict is written, is based on a great deal of common physical presence. But as the world enlarges, so does the concept of community. The physical is still important—but differently. Now community is often virtual, but just as real in many dimensions as sitting next to the same person in chapel all our lives. What is imperative is that the sharing of the common mind be just as important as once was the sharing of a common schedule or a common work.
What is central is that together we use our goods for something greater than ourselves, that we “do not store up grain in barns,” as the scriptures say, for our own security alone, but use the profits of our labor for the good of others as well. It is a process of making all of human community real, and of doing it out of a common vision and one heart, in whatever form is available—so that the spirit of community that is Benedictine to its core may spread like a holy plague throughout the world.
—Joan Chittister in The Monastery of the Heart