In Search of Community



Well, I just moved. Again.

I move quite a lot. In the past ten years, I’ve owned four houses. And that is a study in stability compared to the myriad of apartments (I count sixteen, right off the top of my head) I called home before I bought my first house.

There was always a good reason to move. I left my first house to come to Colorado to be closer to my family. I left that house to get out of the suburbs and closer to where all of the single people were. I left that house because the “single people” neighborhood turned out to be really surprisingly unfriendly (and, apparently, prone to computer thieves.)

Where am I now? Back in the suburbs, but close to the center of town, in a house big enough to give my niece and nephew their own room — a house that just happens to be right across the street from my parents.

It has occurred to me that, with every move, I’m looking for something — for community. And, up until now, I’ve never quite found it.

This, I’ve discovered, is a very big deal for single people — the need for a “community” to call our own.

In my last article (you do remember my last article, don’t you?) I talked about how God created Adam in His own image and likeness. God loved Adam madly. He placed Adam in paradise, and gave him every good thing in creation. And yet, the first thing God said after creating Adam was “It is not good for man to be alone.” Why was it not good? Adam had all kinds of power. He had dominion over all the earth. And he had a lot of “stuff.” But God knew that Adam wouldn’t find happiness in power or in “stuff.” He was created to find fulfillment, as Gaudium et Spes 24 says, in making a sincere gift of himself to another human person.

And so God created Eve. (One of these days I’ll get around to writing a full article on the creation of Eve — it’s fascinating male/female stuff. But not today…)

Adam’s first words after seeing Eve were “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” This is another human person, an equal — someone to love and to give himself to.

Pope John Paul II said that the marriage of Adam and Eve, and the family that came forth from that marriage, constituted the first “communion of persons.” A communion of persons is a group of persons who live, not just for themselves, but for every other person in the group. It’s not a communist thing, like “the individual doesn’t matter — only the state.” It’s actually quite the opposite. In the communion of persons, each individual recognizes the image and likeness of God in every other individual, and acts accordingly.

According to John Paul II, every human person is called to live within a communion of persons. That’s where we thrive. That’s where we’re at our best. That’s the type of environment we were created for.

The family is the “prototype” of a communion of persons. Religious life, generally lived out within the context of a community, also constitutes a communion of persons.

But what about single people?

There is no “communion of persons” inherent in the unconsecrated single life. This is one of the factors that led me to conclude that our state of life is not a “vocation” in the sense that the Church uses the word. We were created for more, community-wise.

This, to me, explains the enduring popularity of television shows like Friends. We all want single life to look like that — a group of friends who live their lives together — who spend their time together, who care about each others’ problems, who sit on the same sofa at the coffee shop every afternoon.

But it never seems to work that way in real life. I asked a friend who lives downtown if she has found a community of single people there. She said she hadn’t. I asked her where all of the single people are. She said, “At home with their dogs.”

To make matters worse, we live in America, where the idea of “rugged individualism” has further fractured our sense of community. My relatives in Italy live their lives in a much different way. If any family member is single, he or she lives near other family members. They eat together regularly. And, after dinner, they all pour out into the town square — to laugh and joke and argue and “commune” with the larger community.

We don’t have that here. We come home at the end of the day and drive our “big American cars” (as my Italian cousin likes to call them) into our big American garages, and close the door to hibernate. If we wanted to go out and meet the “community” where would we go — the strip mall?

Far too often, single people try to use dating as a way to fulfill their need for a communion of persons. They figure having a boyfriend or a girlfriend will give them someone to live their lives for and around — someone who will take an interest in their everyday lives, and care about their problems. This, for obvious reasons, is a very bad idea. The whole purpose of dating is to try to figure out whether someone would make a good marriage partner. If the answer turns out to be “no”, the relationship needs to end. But breaking up can get a whole lot more difficult when we’ve come to rely on this person to fulfill our need for community. How many mediocre or downright bad dating relationships have lasted far too long, simply because the parties involved didn’t have any other communion of persons to fall back on?

As single people, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to consciously work on building up a communion of persons for ourselves. We can do that by putting real effort into our friendships, by making a point of filling our homes and our lives with the people we care about. I’ve done it partly by moving closer to my family — by building real room (literally and figuratively) in my life for my sister and her family.

We also need, I believe, to continue to come together as a community of single persons. We need forums (Is that really the plural of “forum”?) like Catholic Match to reach out to us. We need to organize on the local and national level, so that we can continue to meet each other and grow in community. We need to attend events like the Second Annual National Conference for Catholic Singles for more info.

We need each other too much to spend our lives “sitting at home with our dogs.”

Mary Beth Bonacci, in addition to being a Catholic Match columnist, is an internationally known speaker. She holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. Contact Mary Beth at marybeth@catholicmatch.com. Her web site is www.RealLove.net.

This article has been re-published with written authorization of Catholic Match, LLC.

© Copyright 2006 Catholic Match, LLC. This article may not be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way without written authorization of Catholic Match, LLC.

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