For the month of February 2023, Pope Francis asks people to pray that parishes be more open communities. (90-second Video)
That got me thinking about our longing for belonging and the possibilities of parishes.
Our longing for belonging
Belonging is “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group.”
The isolation of the pandemic played havoc with our mental health. We missed our people—terribly. We longed for friends, family, and colleagues. We are hardwired for connection. We looked for people we can feel accepted by and who help us grow.
Belonging is also critically tied to social identity—a set of shared beliefs or ideals. To truly feel a sense of belonging, you must feel unity and a common sense of character with and among members of your group.
Parishes and a sense of belonging
Do parishes nourish our sense of belonging?
When I was growing up they did! If asked, we would say I am from “Holy Child” or “Sacred Heart.”
A 2020 Vatican instruction expressed it well.
The current parish model no longer adequately corresponds to the many expectations of the faithful, especially when one considers the multiplicity of ommunity types in existence today.
(A parish is no longer) the primary gathering and social center, as in former days.
People are less associated today with a definite and immutable geographical context, living instead in “a global and pluralist village”
The territorial parish, however, must confront a peculiar characteristic of our contemporary world, whereby increased mobility and the digital culture have expanded the confines of existence.
It is thus necessary to find new forms of accompaniment and closeness.
Belonging to the Body of Christ
Jesus put it very simply…
“Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.”
We are the body of Christ … not just as individuals. The Christian community is the Body of Christ… not the building.
The same document reminds us
The celebration of the Eucharistic mystery is “the source and summit of the whole Christian life” and accordingly, the essential moment for building up the parish community.
The parish is “a sign of the permanent presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his People.”
We are privileged to find our deepest belonging as the “Body of Christ”
Stop and think about that!
A parish community, no matter how it is formed, is the “Body of Christ. We are more than a group of individuals who happen to be physically in the same space.
Ultimately, the parish is a group of people who are aware being the presence of or body of Christ in midst of our world today.
Oftentimes, the Parish community is the first place of personal human encounter that the poor have with the face of the Church.
Becoming the “Body of Christ“
The document continues
The ‘culture of encounter’ is conducive to dialogue, solidarity and openness to others, as it is person-centred. Naturally, a parish must be a place that brings people together and fosters long-term personal relationships, thereby giving people a sense of belonging and being wanted.
The parish community is called truly to master the “art of accompaniment”. If deep roots are planted, the parish will become a place where solitude is overcome, which has affected so many lives, as well as being “a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey and a center of constant missionary outreach”.
- Do we need to be knocked to the ground as Saul was on the way to Damascus to discover our deepest longing?
Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk