Let’s be honest, whether its your own family or not, living with people is hard. Living in a community where personalities and backgrounds are as diverse as the colors in a box of crayons can be even more difficult. St. John Berchmans once said that community life was his greatest penance (“Mea maxima poenitentia vita communis.”) Community life may be difficult, but it is also one of the religious’ greatest supports. One man along with another grows in courage and strength; his fear disappears, and he escapes from any trap. Thus, the beauty and riches of fraternal life in common are much greater than the difficulties that it entails. As the Psalm (133:1) says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
Unity is the secret of community life; not physical unity, but unity in Christ. Through fraternal communion rooted and based in charity, members become examples of universal reconciliation in Christ.
Our communities will be authentic only if every member strives for holiness, that is, only if each one lives in docility to the Holy Spirit. Living under this docility, as was evident in the life of our Blessed Mother, our communities will become communities of authentic justice, peace, and joy. However, when holiness is non-existent, there is no law or superior that can prevent disintegration. As St. Pius X said, “Where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way” (Haerent Animo, 5). Unity is the secret of community life; not physical unity, but unity in Christ. Through fraternal communion rooted and based in charity, members become examples of universal reconciliation in Christ.
Justice must be the first thing that our communities strive to live, because a life held in common by many individuals must be ordered. Justice, then, is the foundation of true life in common, for it gives everyone his due: latria to God, veneration and obedience to superiors, respect to equals, service to inferiors, and to everyone, in its measure, charity. “Justice orders all things human, from the smallest to the greatest, according to the will and the law of God, so that man should not be deformed by sin, but molded into God’s image” (St. John Paul II).
If a religious of the IVE should be characterized by anything it should be joy. Joy is the Christian’s gigantic secret and for us an essential component of our spirituality, such that it too should shine forth from our communities. Our joy must not be foolishness or silliness, as if it came from this world, rather it must be supernatual, other-worldly. Our joy must ultimately spring from believing that God is (Ex 3:14), that Christ is (Take heart, it is I. ); that truth prevails over lies, good over evil, beauty over ugliness, love over hate, peace over war, mercy over vengeance, life over death, grace over sin…in short, being over nothingnesss, the Virgin over Satan, Christ over the Antichrist, God over all. Why all these things? Because are given wholly to God and as St. Teresa of the Andes says, “God is infinite joy”.
It is in this joy that we strive for fraternal charity, seeking to “outdo one another in showing honor”, bearing each other’s weaknesses, dying to self for love of neighbor and living always in the fear and love of God. Observing our life, one should say, “Look how they love each other and are willing to die for each other” (Tertullian, Apologeticum). Only in a community where the cross is lived daily, can the members live in true joy.