We Need To Build Intentional Prayerful Communities Now

Catholics no longer live in close-knit, prayerful communities. In fact, in many ways, our parishes are places where we know very few people and the activities being offered do not draw us into deep relationships with one another. We attend a gathering and we leave. We go home and spend hours on our phones and computers, fostering virtual relationships that are incapable of building up authentic communion. Communion is a watchword of our day given its prominence in the Synod of Synodality, but it is something we do not live in the West.

This sense that we are not authentically living communion as Christ intends or, in a way that is even remotely close to the Early Church, has grown within me over the last few years. In an age of immense busyness and technological “communities” we often fail to prioritize building up prayerful, intentional, and sacrificially loving communities within our parishes and neighborhoods. What happens in the Mass should move outwards both within our parishes and in our surrounding towns.

Much of this has to do with our own priorities, in that we tend to place secular pursuits above spiritual ones. We maintain schedules jam-packed with activities that most of the time have very little to do with growing in holiness. On the flip-side, the focus in most parishes I’ve been a member of is on a dinner here and there and the catechetical offerings the same 30 people attend. It’s not working, but we keep doing it anyway.

The events of the last few years and the prospect of a war moving beyond the borders of the Ukraine should be a moment of spiritual awakening for us. Something very serious is happening at a spiritual and material level across the globe. Pandemic, war, and the growing dangers of famine in parts of the world are signs that something is amiss. As unpopular as it is to say, these are hallmarks of chastisement. We haven’t exactly been a particularly faithful people given the lack of belief within the Church today. We are being called back to God in a dramatic fashion, but we seem to be missing the message.

Those of us who live in the United States and Western Europe woke up one morning during COVID to discover radical ideologies—that were on the fringes a decade ago—have taken over education, media, politics, and big business at breakneck speed. Ideologies diametrically opposed to our Catholic Faith. The average Catholic sitting in the pews probably is not even aware of this fact since we never—or rarely—hear a homily warning us of these dangers. The fact that persecution has already been visited upon some of our brothers and sisters in Christ over vaccine mandates and the LGBT agenda is being completely ignored.

It’s time to embrace the fact that we are not going back to pre-COVID days, no matter how much we long for that false sense of security and safety. We must confront the realities at hand and spiritually prepare for the days that lie ahead. We need to build prayerful, committed communities to weather what is coming. I have gone back and forth on it for a variety of reasons, but Rod Dreher is right. We need the Benedict Option in order to live through what is largely already here. We should have been preparing years ago.

Real communion is not an option we can live out via social media. We need to be physically present to one another, rather than continue to pretend that virtual relationships on social media are authentic communion. It is not authentic communion. Look at what it is doing to young people and our families. We are allowing a counterfeit to take the place of the flesh and blood people around us.

These relationships are easy because they don’t require looking into the eyes of someone who is suffering and walking with them in all the heaviness required of loving others. Social media allows us to easily cut people off who we disagree with on a particular topic. Our social media friends do not challenge us by pointing out our failings or difficulties. In fact, they don’t know us at a level beyond the superficial. We don’t have to work through the difficulties of relationships with someone who we see through the pixels on our computer or phone screen. We can surround ourselves with people who confirm us in everything we do. 

I did it before I gave up social media 1.5 years ago. It’s what a lot of people have done and it is destructive. I spent too long allowing Facebook to blind me to my very real need for authentic communion with the people physically present to me. I couldn’t find it ready-made in any of the parishes I have been a member of for the last 15 years, so I went to Facebook looking for it.

What I failed to see is that Christ has placed people in my life here and now who also long for authentic communion.

My husband and I realized we need to start building a prayerful community with the people around us. We need to be the ones who take the first step in building the community we have not been able to find. We’re going to open up our home—as small and simple as it may be—to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from our parish, surrounding parishes, our neighbors, co-workers, or anyone who comes along. We will regularly come together for prayer and fellowship, even if we have strong theological differences.

We meet twice a month on a Sunday afternoon for a potluck and prayer. Our first prayer potluck was this past Sunday with two Catholic couples we are friends with and our Protestant neighbors. We also took dinner to our friend across the street who is a new widow and battling cancer. We taught our Protestant neighbors how to pray Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours. Since it is praying Sacred Scripture, especially the Psalms, we found it was a great bridge.

Our next event will be later in the month. We’ve invited the young adult group in our parish, friends, neighbors, priests, people I chat with at daily Mass and outside of Adoration, co-workers, and new people we meet. Our backyard can hold a lot more people than our house, so we pray for reasonable weather while trusting God will provide.

Community is going to be a bulwark against this storm. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is a diabolical inversion of the communion we are called to share in as brothers and sisters in Christ. COVID has deepened the illusion that we can simply stay home on our phones and computers and call this community. If anyone is equipped to show the world that we must be bodily present to one another in our relationships with it is Catholics. We are a sacramental people.

Christ is present to us in the Blessed Sacrament body, blood, soul, and divinity because He meets us in our human nature. The same is true of relationships with others. We can keep in touch with others using social media, but too often we allow social media relationships to take the place of building community around us and it is having very negative consequences on people, especially through loneliness, isolation, and addiction.

When I go about my day meeting various people, even in my parish, I see an immense loneliness and hunger for true connection with other people. Right now, our neighbors in our immediate vicinity are battling cancer, heart disease, family dysfunction, addiction, mental illness, fear, and loneliness. On your street, this is what is happening right now. I know because all of my immediate neighbors are dealing with all of these things. The same is true in our parishes.

Christ did not make us for loneliness and fear. He made us for communion with one another in Him. This communion begins in prayer. Having people over for dinner is fine and good, but to build community in these dark days, we need to become a people of prayer. This type of community also gets in the way of the cancel culture that tells us we must get rid of anyone who has a different opinion from us or who dares to correct us in any way.

Now is the time to start building intentional, prayerful communities. This is not something we need to have endless meetings over or plan. It is something we start doing one step at a time. Invite a few people over for a potluck and Rosary or another form of prayer. Invite people you barely know. Sure, it is awkward at first, but part of growing in love is moving outwards in ways that make us uncomfortable. That awkwardness fades quickly and gives way to fraternal charity.

Find people in your parish who may be alone or who want to find a closer community. Invite the young adults who are often far from their families, new families, retirees, the neighbor you’ve only said a few things to about the weather, a struggling co-worker, and the person battling chronic illness. The possibilities are endless. We are at a crisis point right now and what we choose to do going forward will make or break us. We need to start coming together in prayerful community in order to be a source of light in the darkness ahead.

Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate with an M.A. in Theology with an emphasis in philosophy. Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths.

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