Friday, September 25, 2015

A Papal Reference Sparks Thoughts of Intentional Community

Yesterday the Pope mentioned Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  Apparently, not everyone knows who these Catholics were (should you need a primer, this article in The Washington Post gives lots of great information).

Every so often, I realize what a different world I inhabit.  As I listened to coverage of the Pope's address to Congress, I heard Day and Merton referred to as "little-known Catholics."  I could see Dorothy Day as being a bit obscure, but Thomas Merton?  One of the most important Christian writers of the 20th century?

Of course, there are many writers of prominence that most people simply haven't read or even heard about.  A monastic like Merton--perhaps it's understandable that we see him as more obscure.

I heard about the Pope's address on my way home from a happy hour going away party for a colleague who is moving across the sea.  I thought about how many people have come and gone from my school.  I am feeling a bit adrift.

In some ways, the teaching life has always been this way:  students come, and students go.  But once, colleagues stayed longer.

I think of monastics who take a vow of stability--they vow to stay in their monastery for the rest of their lives.  But I also think of Mepkin Abbey.  I've been going there regularly for over 10 years, and even the vow of stability doesn't always keep people rooted.

I think of the Pope's reference to Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, both important to those of us who study intentional communities.  Dorothy Day founded her Catholic Worker houses, some of which still exist, and Thomas Merton took part in a much older tradition.

What would an intentional community look like in these unstable times?

In the meantime, I try to stay grounded, even as my work community continues to shift.  Maybe intentional communities in the 21st century will be rooted in the human life, not the place.

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