Faithful Presence as a Way of Life Together

by Mark Votava

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Being raised as a Catholic, I always thought that Christianity was just an intellectual belief.  It never occurred to me that it might be possible to live out the teachings of Christ authentically as a way of life.  I had never heard of community, listening, formation and the importance of place.  So I have been on a journey for the past decade to reimagine the body of Christ in our time within the twenty-first century.

  • Practices are important

Christ practiced his way of life in a local community of friends and followers who did not have the New Testament to guide them.  So practices, place, relationships were much more important than mere doctrines that had not developed until later after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What are some of the practices that we need in our world of the twenty-first century?  Practices are so important that I think they have to do with relational connection, deep interior listening to the life of Christ in us, giving up a sense of upward mobility, rooting ourselves in the parish and linking to other places for new learning.

  • Routines, patterns and everyday habits

My dear friends Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen of the Parish Collective say, “Personal practices are simply the routines, patterns and everyday habits you carry out in the neighborhood that give you the opportunity to engage with what’s happening.  In a very real sense this is about your public presence in the parish.  Most of your presence in the neighborhood is incredibly ordinary, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be intentional.”

  • Slowing down to root ourselves locally

While we live in a highly fragmented culture where we are running around a lot of the time in all different directions, it would do us good to just slow down and start rooting ourselves locally as much as we can.  This might take some deep listening to our lives and reimagining our context as a place to practice the teaching of Christ to love our neighbors.  Isn’t Christianity about love and nothing else?

  • Love dominating all we do

How can we be alive in our world without love dominating all we do through the actions of our faithful presence and care?  The poor are being abandoned because we often do not live with them, among them, for them in the parish.  There is little hospitality and works of mercy on their behalf.

  • A way of life one practices

The Catholic Worker Movement which was co-founded by a young single mother by the name of Dorothy Day in the 1930’s has practiced hospitality, care, faithful presence in poor neighborhoods throughout North America for over 80 years now.  Caring for the poor is central to their mission of community and justice.  It is more about a way of life one practices than just believing certain intellectual doctrines.  When you love the poor and are inclusive, you might find yourself questioning what you thought love looked like in everyday life.

  • Constantly changing, evolving and mysterious

It is constantly changing, evolving and mysterious.  Every situation is different and contextual.  We need to be constantly asking ourselves what does an expression of love look like in the here and now of this context in the present moment.

How can we see Christianity as a way of life?