Moving Toward the Center
Sam, a recent convert, finds in School of Community an unexpected friendship and a well that is deep.
Sometime in mid-2020, I was befriended by Suzanne (we met through a mutual friend). Soon after connecting, I was introduced to and invited to participate in the School of Community led by Suzanne. The first thing that I want to say is that how I was introduced and welcomed into SoC—as the gift of friendship—is as significant as what I encountered through SoC. In other words, SoC was not a program (not a "get 'em in and get 'em through" experience), it was a matter of friends sharing friendships that are centered around friendship with Jesus Christ.
I experienced SoC as an "open set" approach to group formation versus a "box set.” "Box set" groups operate by having strong boundary lines (i.e., belonging is defined by believing and behaving in a way that conforms to the lines. If you are inside the lines, then you are in; if you are not inside the lines, then you are out.) "Open set" groups operate by having a strong central/focal point (e.g. reflection on our lives in the light of reading and seeking to live out the truth of core texts--Father Carrón's or Father Guissani's texts). Because the central/focal point is well-defined, the boundaries of the group can be "fuzzy." It doesn't matter so much where you start or where you are starting from, what matters is your willingness to move towards the center from wherever you are. SoC has reminded me of my experiences at Taizé, some retreats at monasteries, etc., and it is refreshing.
As someone recently received into the Catholic Church, I had already encountered Jesus, but through the Church I sensed that I was discovering Jesus' family (communion of saints) and the gifts that he left his Church (sacraments). . . and yet, in RCIA, there was a strong emphasis on "covering all the answers." SoC has gone beyond this introduction to the faith, providing an on-going catechetical space for aligning my life as a "person in Christ" with other persons-in-Christ.
It reminds me of a story about an American rancher who, upon visiting an Australian rancher, asked: "I see your cattle grazing, but I don't see any fences. How do you keep them in?" To which the Australian responded, "I don't need to fence them in because they know where the water is, and they choose to stay close to it." Take-away: Strong fences vs deep wells . . . Parish life on its own can feel like a fenced-in experience, hard to get in to the mix if you are not already in. But SoC has been more a well than a fence, and I am grateful for that.
I have learned from Fr. Giussani (and from Suzanne) how much language matters. I have found a lexicon of old words that have been charged with new meaning: encounter, event, conversion, affection, obedience, mystery, memory, gaze, being "grasped" . . . We are called to become "scribes of the kingdom" who are equipped to bring forth "treasure old and new." Through SoC, I have found such treasure; what's more, I want to become a treasure-seeker and treasure-sharer for the sake of Christ and his kingdom—or, as I would now say, for Christ and his "revolution of tenderness."
Sam, Birmingham, England