November 3, 2010

Theses on Getting Along in Community

(A collection in progress)

1. Pray for the other members of the community every day. Not only is this the right thing to do before God, but it practices the disposition of charity toward them.

2. Presume the best motives in others.

3. Presume that others are quietly putting up with your awkwardness, idiosyncrasies and annoying behaviors that you aren't even aware of. Try to do the same thing for them.

4. Do not avoid conversations that tend toward gossip or detraction. Instead, by your own speech, try to turn them positive.

5. Do not take responsibility for the feelings of others, nor try to make anyone else responsible for yours. Do not surrender your moods and emotional states to the control of others.

6. Commit to some form of prayer or spiritual practice that helps you transcend moodiness and dis-identify with the flux of your own thoughts and feelings.

7. Seek always ways to be helpful around the house, but also be careful of enabling anyone's learned helplessness or negligence.

8. Be free to challenge anyone who is having trouble accepting help or kindness. Be humble enough yourself to ask for help when you need it. Be humble enough to accept compliments and kind words. Those who refuse to accept love deny others the chance to practice charity.

9. Use humor wisely. It can be a powerful too for speaking difficult things in a safe way, but it can also be used to belittle or to prevent what needs to be said from coming out.

10. When you cook, pay attention not to what they say at table, but to whether anyone eats the leftovers. That's what indicates whether they liked it or not.

11. Be approachable and available. If nobody ever asks you for help or if they can talk something over, it might be because you seem unapproachable.


Lee Gilbert said...

"2. Presume the best motives in others."

Once I asked my Trappist friend what he thought was the biggest temptation in a monastery. And he said, "Judging other monks."

Your list reminds me that there is great need for some kind of pre-entrance orientation that alerts candidates to what some of the issues are and perhaps even gives them a taste of community life.

Here I am wondering if there could be something like a summer institute run jointly by the Dominicans, Franciscans, Cistercians, Benedictines etc that would run candidates through the ABC's of religious life (the elements common to all religious life), while exposing them at the same time to the charisms of the different orders.

As it is, the only way into such insight is to commit, but that can be unnecessarily costly for both the candidate and the order, costly in the sense of wasted time and resources, but also costly in wasted hope for both the order and the candidate.

Well, if this isn't possible, even a booklet with some of the lore you have posted here (and much more) would give a candidate some idea of what religious life is really about.

Entering and then going to classes on the constitutions and spirituality of the order is no substitute for an immediate thorough-going orientation to the kind of things you talk about in this post, which could be summed up under the theme of dying to oneself. In fact, IMHO there is need to go over the very basics of Christian Catholic life, especially temptation and how to deal with it, the helpfulness of frequent confession, the necessity of prayer and overcoming difficulties in it, the necessity to pray every day for perseverance in one's vocation, and the wisdom of thanking God every day for one's vocation, actual and sanctifying grace and the things that bring down grace from God- the very basics, the rock bottom foundation for a happy life as a religious.

As it is, my impression that an awful lot of formation is presumed in the candidate. After all, he had great references, he's a daily communicant, etc. True, but it's very likely that he has significant holes in his understanding that need to be patched up if he is going to persevere, and if he is not going to be a drag on the community for the next 60 yrs.

Am I wrong? Maybe something like this is being done after all, but I doubt it.

Brother Charles said...

No, you are right. These are difficult needs and real troubles.

Robin said...

Quoted you today.

fjm said...

Truly heaven-sent and just what I needed to hear (and read). Thanks be to God! And you!

Cole Matson said...

I'm having my first experience of living in community (with two Jesuits, a lay chaplain, and a dozen other students at my university chaplaincy), and boy is this spot on. I told my spiritual director this week I was allowing myself to get increasingly annoyed at little things, like the one person who seems to close doors only by slamming them, even late at night. #3 is the key for me. Who knows what annoying habits I have that bother other people? My immediate guess would be my tendency to avoid dish-washing, to take my meals in my room, and to show up late to set up chairs for Sunday morning Mass.

Michael Hallman said...

Thanks for this, Father. Really, really helpful.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father, Thank you for these comments. These ideas work for married life, too!

God bless you and best of luck with your studies.

Regards from Canada,
Patricia Gonzalez