It took a long convo with dearest P to make me start to see the connection between the stuff that's been bothering me lately. The embodiment of faith, and my thoughts on church as family and today's jumbled feelings when saying goodbye to P and C, they all connect.
On top of this came a visit to the béguinage/begijnhof in Antwerp. We just walked past it, and there they were, beautiful little buildings around a quiet courtyard, previously inhabited by a religious sisterhood. Sisters who, without taking vows, chose to live and pray together.
I think all of it is about a deep yearning for a life that is marked by community and wholeness.
Cliché? Maybe. But living with other, beloved adults in our little apartment for ten days, without feeling the least bit tired of them or wishing for more solitude, I know I want more of that. I want more of the village and less of the island. I don't believe we are created to live in tiny little insular units, only consisting of parents and children. I believe children benefit from having many adults around (and children), by being raised by a community and not by persons.
And I believe this is the way church should function, too.
Church should be the "place" where you rest, where you find strength and support, where you live and eat and laugh and pray together, so that you can go out from there to serve others and tell the good news. Church is not the place where we believers gather to feel better about ourselves, or a place we should look down upon others for not being a part of. It is not an organization foremost, nor a building, nor a number on a membership report. Church is community, family, something we live instead of a place. It is the feeling of presence, a gathering of wanderers who are willing to let the Holy Spirit roam within and without them.
Yeah, I guess I am a hippie. And yeah, I guess maybe I am talking about a utopian vision here.
But I long for a sense of being whole. I long for the presence of my loved ones. I long for laughter and long conversations about faith. I long for sharing. And however much I love my husband, I long for a community bigger than the two, and counting my daughter three, of us.
Some of this is actually found here, in our little congregation, best felt and heard and tasted during Wednesdays, at dinner, when children run around, adults sit and talk and we end the day with Mass. Taste and see, God is good. But in some ways, we still have a long walk ahead of us. And no matter what, my dearest, most wonderful friends still live halfway across the planet. And today I ache for their presence, and for the sense of holy, thoroughly beer-filled, space they brought with them.
I love you, C. I love you, P. You have been, and are, blessed Presence to me.