This Sunday, after a long weekend of festivities, I found myself kneeling in Christ the King, or CTK (our primary chapels on campus). I was listening to the choir prepare for mass, and I was praying and reflecting, and then I looked around. Normally when I am praying before mass in CTK, I look up and see a lot of other college students, but this past Sunday I served at a 10 a.m. mass for alumni. Looking around, I couldn’t help but feel a pull toward the amazing community that Loras creates. Loras plays such a huge impact in people’s lives that people who graduated 50 years ago were still returning to celebrate mass with our current Loras community and the greater Loras community as a whole. It was then that it occurred to me that this was only a fraction (and a small one at that) of the entire Loras community. It is mind-blowing to think about all of the people who have impacted and developed Loras to what it is as we know it, and all of the lives that are unintentionally leaving finger-prints on Duhawks today. After having my mind blown by these observations, I looked to the cross and thought of Christ’s love for us, and how this crazy community and Christ’s love for all humanity are connected.
“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) The greatest commandment and the greatest virtue is love. Love is arguably the most beautiful aspect of not only the Faith, but also in community. In community, we can love each other in an insane way which is wonderful, because it is what we as Christians are called to do. What does that mean, though, to love? And what really is community?
We are all called to love as Christ loves the church. This kind of love has a special name in Greek – agape. Agape love is love that is self-sacrificing; this is the kind of love that Christ poured out upon every soul (ever) when he took all of our sin upon His shoulders and died for us on the cross. When Christ says, “There is no greater love, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15:13) or when He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt 16:24) what He is telling us is to follow Him and to love the way He does; that is, to love in an entirely selfless way. If we do not love each other in this true and sincere way, then we cannot grow together as people. Love is not a feeling, it is a choice. People don’t stay married solely because it feels nice, for if a marriage is to last it, is because the couple chooses daily to look past the flaws of the other person and still be willing to make sacrifice for one another. So, it is also, that if we are to truly love each other in a community, we must, daily, chose to love those around us, even if we don’t like them. We must grow in understanding and compassion, even when it is difficult. And most importantly, we must forgive and help heal, even when the perpetrator does not deserve our forgiveness. That is how we are to love and grow together in community. Side note, this does not mean that we don’t need to call one another out or help each other grow, it merely means that we must do so in a way that is both honest and charitable.
According to dictionary.com, community is “a social, religious, occupational or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” Community is that, but it can also be bigger. We as Loras are a community, and we as Catholics (sorry to the 40% of you who aren’t, but thank you for reading this) are a community. What does that really mean to each of us? From a Loras standpoint, it means being, or trying to be, responsible contributors, ethical decision makers, active learners and reflective thinkers. For Catholics, it essentially means abiding by the Ten Commandments and believing in the Creed (it is more than that, but those are the basics). Community, in reality, is having the humility to know who we are and where we belong. Community is making the choice to love each other, even when it is not easy, and helping each other to grow both together and apart.
This week my challenge is to think about community every time you are in a group setting. Think about the people around you and how you are choosing to love them, in addition to how they are choosing to love you. Then thank them. Thank your communities for being there when you need them and for giving you a chance to help others in your daily life. Remind yourself of how these communities affect you, and think about how they have helped you to grow. DU-what? DU-dares.