This is Part 3 of a fifteen-part series called “The Vision of an Ideal Parish” based on an article by Dr. Peter Williamson published in 2016. This series is intended to return us to our original Faith Forward Vision.

It’s kinda like four-year-old soccer.

I’m referring to our instinct for community. I’m sure most people have seen four-year-old soccer. It’s cute. Tedious, but cute. All the kids know is that the game has something to do a ball, a net, and an opposing team. Outside of that, it’s pretty much a mosh-pit of little legs, distracted looks, random kicks, and the occasional pouting lip. But I’m not focused on all those things. The instinct that I am referring to is that when kids get together, they naturally congregate. Perhaps it’s the feeling of strength in numbers, perhaps it’s the comfort in closeness, perhaps it’s the basic desire for connectedness. Whatever it may be, the human person is communal by nature; especially in four-year-old-soccer.

In the same way that a human person is communal by nature, so too, a parish is communal by nature. After all, this is what it means to be created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). God Himself is a community of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Three in One. Recall that that an ideal parish is Trinitarian: a community of persons. But today, in saying that an ideal parish is communal by nature, I am referring the inner workings of a parish.

You see, Christianity has nothing to do with the rugged individualism typified by James Bond. (Side note: Bishop Olmsted once said it’s ironic a man named ‘Bond’ could never keep a stable relationship. So true!) An ideal Catholic parish recognizes its fundamental identity is communal in three ways:

  • First, it gathers as a whole in “celebration,” as at Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, the Easter Triduum, or Parish Gatherings.
  • Second, it forms mid-sized “congregations” gathered by common interest or activity such as various stewardship groups like PSR, CYM, Catholic School, adoration, Tobit’s ministry, etc.
  • Third, it forms small groups or “cells” that tend to be focused on education, formation, or friendship. These can be Bible Study, adult study groups, OCIA, or simply the regular gathering of friends for cards or dinner. The most important “cell” is the family, also called the “domestic Church.” This is the fundamental communal gathering of the Church upon which the whole community is founded; the healthier the family, so too, the healthier the parish.

So we are basically like a four-year-old soccer team: communal to the core. Whether in “celebration,” “congregation,” God has made the human person social. Just as the bible described the early Church as “devoted to the communal life” (Acts 2:42), so too the modern parish is intrinsically communal like the Trinity. But please—no pulling hair or kicking shins!

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor