Always With Us

 

by Jacqueline Arnold

 

 

Community. The world is made up of communities of all types, centered around all sorts of things: hobbies, sports, academic disciplines, work, and faith.

 

At each transition moment that I’ve experienced in my short 21 years, the aspect of change that has brought the most fear is that I’m leaving one community to go to a place where I have yet to build one. Coming to university, I was scared of making new friends, and terrified that I wouldn’t be able to form a community based on true friendship and faith, as I had in high school. Spending half a year in Buenos Aires and a summer in New York City during my junior year induced a similar kind of apprehensiveness, with a little less fear than before. I’m slowly coming to realize a few things: first, that the Lord will not leave me in need of a community; He will always provide. He gives and takes away, yes, but He knows more than me what I need, and He has always blessed me with friends of the good who point me in His direction. Second, I need not fear losing a community that I have formed, as the necessary, pure, and beautiful ones stay and will always welcome me back with love. I experience this every time I come back home, when I reunite with my high school friends. Our friendships are rooted so deeply in faith that (I hope and pray), no amount of space or time can shake them. After high school, I left my community, which was strongly based on family, and came to university, where my friends truly became a distinct type of family.

 

I’ve spent the past few days with my sister at Villanova, where I was able to glimpse into the community she has formed, and meet the friends who take care of her in ways large and small. Yesterday, she went to class, and left me in the company of her friends, instructing them to “Take care of my sister.” And they did—they welcomed me, and were truly invested in getting to know me, simply because I am connected to my sister by blood and friendship. Leaving Villanova, I’m comforted to know that she has a community of people who challenge and encourage her to deepen her faith.

 

Coming home to Baltimore after Villanova, I stepped right back into another community—my family and the community of families that my parents have built. These friendships are also built on faith, and this has enabled them to stand the test of time. My parents’ friends have collectively raised each other’s children. They’ve attended soccer games, hosted summer crab feasts, gone to Mass together and breakfast at my aunt’s diner afterwards, and been the photographers when the kids go to homecoming and prom. I’ve been raised by a tight-knit community—a community built by my parents, and one that is ultimately based in faith, love, and self-sacrifice. These are the people who have made me who I am; none of us exist separately or in isolation, contrary to the individualistic and “success”-oriented mindset that pervades western culture.

 

I am completely intertwined and dependent on people in my life: my family and my friends. Ignoring this fact, or pretending otherwise, is not only living within a lie, but also harmful to my faith life. True faith and trust in God comes with the humble recognition of our own complete and utter dependence on Him. He entrusts us to care for each other and imitate His perfect love as best we can. Through communities, we can come to love God and one another better. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations” is a heavy command, but we are not meant to do it alone. True to His name, Emmanuel, God is always with us, and He will always give us the communities we need, if we only ask.


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