I am always fascinated by flying. It is remarkable how many people and systems have to work together in order to allow travelers to go from one part of the globe to another. And there is the flying itself—rising from the ground and seeing the landscape get smaller and smaller is always a strange sight. But there is also an uncomfortable part of flying: the suffocation of the other passengers being so close. Most people handle this situation by stoically ignoring those around them for the duration of the flight. For me, this situation perfectly illustrates one of the strange paradoxes of modern life: we can be surrounded by people and yet feel alone.
This feeling of loneliness contrasts with ordinary experiences of community with those whom we love. Oftentimes these experiences of community are not in big crowds, but in small groups such as families. I remember many fond memories with my family visiting the woods and having a fire. We would bring sausages and roast them. We spent time together in the wild.
In Dominican life, we try to be intentional about building a community by spending time together and by praying together. The first paragraph of the statutes of our province speaks about the importance of setting aside time each day for ‘common recreation.’ Spending time together is an essential feature of building common life. We are often tempted to let our community life slide; it can be hard to see the immediate good. But in the end, spending time together and praying together are essential for building community in religious life.
The type of close community built in a family or religious order is a rare and beautiful gift. We are often not conscious of these gifts and take them for granted. Does that make us alone? If I sit in a plane full of strangers, am I truly alone? I am alone if I forget my connectedness to others through my faith. Jesus tells His disciples that He is always present to them. He tells them, “…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Our faith connects us to our brothers and sisters. Even though we may feel alone in any given instance, we are truly connected, through Jesus, to each person—from the stranger on the plane to the hermit in the desert.
And then, when we realize we are not alone we might even have the courage to talk to the person sitting next to us. How else can we share the Gospel?