Two weekends ago, the adults of the parish came together at our Faith Formation Kickoff to hear and talk about the upcoming year of our whole-community program, Generations of Faith. It is our goal to make Generations a place where all ages, especially adults, can first and foremost encounter a loving, forgiving, creator God. This is the primary goal of faith formation—to help people meet and form a lasting relationship with the God who loved us into being, and with that same love, sent his own Son to save us. Secondary to this goal of meeting and knowing God is that participants are brought into a community at St. Mary; that they feel welcome, form supportive relationships, and can have meaningful conversations with others about their lives and faith. At our kickoff I used the word “village” to try to get at the type of community I was talking about.
Upon reflection, I’m not sure if the word “village” fully defined what I was trying to explain. “Village” certainly denotes a certain togetherness and unconditional support of its members, and it also hints at the whole community being parents to the next generation and passing down values that are shared by the village. A community of faith certainly does all of these things, but there is something more that “village” just does not get at.
Maria Harris, one of my favorite authors on the subject of growing in faith once wrote, “We go to God together or we do not go at all.” It is clear that the church and all of its little communities and families exist so that we can help each other go to God. Pope Francis expanded upon this when he recently said in one of his homilies, “No one is saved by himself. We are the community of believers, we are the People of God, and in this community we share the beauty of the experience of a love that precedes us all, but that at the same time calls us to be channels of grace for one another, despite our limitations and out sins.” This is the fuller definition of the type of community Generations seeks to build at St. Mary: one where the Love of God is what joins us together and causes us to love one another.
Village-ness does not precede this kind of community; it flows from it. We do not come together and support each because our survival depends on it or because it makes us feel good; we come together because we acknowledge the beauty of the God who loves us and has shown himself to us in our everyday lives. We see the miracles that are our children and creation around us, we experience forgiveness and kindness of another, and we also experience scripture and the sacraments. We come together, sharing these experiences so that we can uphold and support each other in lives of faith, despite the messiness and sinfulness in each of those lives. Therefore, let us be village-like, supporting each other in the living of our lives and the raising up of the next generation. But let us first be a community of faith, where we can have in common the beautiful experience of a God who loves us and share with each other that same love through forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional support.
Michelle Stone, Coord. of Faith Formation