Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Living in Community

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

At our recent Community meeting, we focused on one element of our Abbey Community – the Listening Groups. In our Listening Groups, we develop bonds and get to know the group members more intimately than we do with the majority of our community. Familiarity breeds love and trust; but, it also allows us to see faults and foibles that may get ‘under our skin’.

Father Talafous’ meditation (below) of a few days ago really struck home to me in the context of living in community…especially one that is non-residential. I am finding that as I grow older, my patience with people who don’t act or think as I do gets very thin. Some of you who think you know me well may find that inconsistent with what you see on the exterior. I’m not exactly sure why, but at my most authentic core, I get extremely frustrated with “fools” – people who don’t act like I expect or have differing opinions. I’ve developed this shell that seems sweet, but masks a heart that is not so sweet and nourishes grudges. At these times, it takes every effort of will to keep my tongue and mind in check. Even though I may not lash out verbally at someone, I am not really building Community if I cannot genuinely erase vengeful feelings. I cannot build Community if I cannot authentically share my inner core. The task for me is to find the courage and the ways to share the hurts or off-putting quirks with the other in a manner that is loving, recognizes the Christ within that person, and invites dialog. The answer for me and my prayer is to put my trust in God, continue to work at giving my will/ego to Christ, and be open to His healing presence. To borrow from our Urban Abbey Collect, “As I cannot in my own strength do this or even with hope of success attempt it, I ask these things, O Creator, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord together with the Spirit. Amen.”

How do you handle disagreements in Community? I invite your thoughts and comments.

Shalom and Many Blessings, George

“After hearing so much in Scripture about forgiveness and mercy we might ask ourselves what the fuss is all about. Don't I forgive? Someone harms me or seriously irritates me and I forgive them, don't I? There is a danger that we take all this too superficially; that we overestimate how easy it is. Just to form the syllables, "I forgive," is physically easy, but genuinely to erase from our hearts vengeful feelings about the other is not easy. It might take time; emotions do not change as swiftly as the mouth can pronounce the words. It is more honest to recognize that we want to forgive someone but can't do it yet. The frequent admonitions to forgive, to have mercy are there perhaps because it does take us a long time to develop a habit of genuine forgiveness. It takes a long time to develop a heart which does not nourish grudges and look for chances to get even, if only with a nasty word. Part of the following of Jesus is imitating His forgiveness. A daily prayer for a gentle, contrite, humble heart is never untimely.” --Fr. Don Talafous, OSB

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