It feels trite to say this at this point, but this is a very strange year. Many people I’ve talked to have spoken about blessings during this period; more time with family, a slower pace of life, the chance to explore our own neighborhoods and reach out to our neighbors. But this period has undoubtedly also been full of many trials, from sickness and death to job loss to increased mental health struggles.
All this has led to what experts are calling “collective trauma,” akin to what results from war, natural disasters, and acts of mass violence. Collective trauma is marked by increased fear, feelings of vulnerability and humiliation, damaged national pride, identity crisis, and heightened vigilance. One of the most important ways that experts say we can reduce feelings of collective trauma is by remaining connected to a community.
A lot of what we’ve been writing about in these blog posts has been individually focused - study, character, overcoming boredom, work, praying in your room. And all of these, of course, have dimensions beyond ourselves, but they are, at least on the surface, solitary activities. Yet there is much wisdom in even the contemplative tradition of the Church pointing us toward the need for explicit community and connection with others.
Sister Marie Elizabeth, a member of a cloistered religious community called the Poor Clares, describes what it’s like to live as a part of a cloistered community. She says, “Out in the world you can be around a ton of people but still be very lonely. But that sense to me is not here. In the enclosure, we’re never by ourselves. We’re with Jesus all the time. He’s always present everywhere. There’s not that sense of loneliness.” She finds community, in this instance, through this deep, abiding connection with Jesus.
However, the Poor Clares also have explicit time for community built into their daily schedules. They have an hour of recreation every day, where they talk to one another, play games, and make rootbeer floats.
This highlights for us that individual reflection, prayer, and study are not enough. We also need to be explicitly connected to one another, to spend time reaching out and talking and playing and laughing. That we are made in the image of a Trinitarian God tells us that we are made for community, with God and with one another. And just like we need times in our day when we are explicitly talking to God, we need times when we are explicitly talking to one another.
Check out this post on ideas for connecting with others during a pandemic, and remember; if you are longing for more community, chances are others are as well. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and reach out!