Cultivating Virtuous Community

Community is something we need at all walks of our faith life. Whether we are searching for the Truth and are shown the love of God from our friends around us, whether we have just decided to take the Faith seriously and our friends are embarking on the journey with us, or we have been practicing for many years and our friends help keep us grounded against the sometimes-tumultuous waters of the world around us, community is essential.

The road of faith is not meant to be walked alone. Nor is it something that we should try to do alone.

Learning about Community

The summer after my freshman year of college, I spent the summer in Colorado with 120 other college-aged Catholics. We worked 8 hours a day at the YMCA. During our time off, we prayed, went to Mass, hung out, goofed off,  and explored the Rocky Mountains. Together, we learned how to truly live life to the fullest.

I’m no expert on community. I don’t know the academic terminologies about how one should be or the logic of how to make one. But I have been reflecting on the best one I have ever experienced and what it has taught me. I learned a lot about community when twenty of us decided to go on a nine-hour, ten-mile hike.

Rivers and Forgiveness

At the start of the trail, we walked into a vibrant forest abundant with wildflowers and aspen. With every twist and turn through the forest, we seemed to uncover more greenery and flowers. The path was easy and flat. As far as I could tell, this would be the easiest “mountain” I’ve ever climbed.

That is, until we hit our first river. Although the river was swift, a huge log that had fallen over it. We were able to cross to the other side. One of the girls asked another to hold her phone as she walked across because she was afraid she would drop it in the water. It was all a very prudent and noble act until the phone-bearer dropped the phone into the river halfway across. This taught me that in a virtuous community, we must learn to trust each other. We also have to learn to forgive and to seek forgiveness when we fail.

Climbing the Snowy Slopes

Eventually, the trees thinned, our trail sloped upwards, and our path was strewn with snow. As we trudged on, the trail was completely hidden underneath the drifts. We needed to dig holes into the snow and walk in each other’s steps to stay on track and not fall backwards down the vertical incline.

After shouts of motivation from the group, each person was able to make it over the incline and take in the wintery view of a frozen lake surrounded by the mountains.

We need virtuous community that will challenge us to strive toward Heaven. Let’s surround ourselves with people who will help us cling to the snowy slopes to get there.

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Losing and Finding

At this point in the journey, I assured myself that I had no desire to try to climb any mountain. I had no idea that our journey was not even halfway over. Now we needed to walk down the slope on the opposite side of the mountain.

Half the group got a running start to slide down the snowy slopes into a wooded area. We got so caught up in searching out the greatest hills that we lost the trail. We had to search through the forest to find it under the snow. Soon, we found it again, but because we moved so quickly, half the group had gotten lost in the forest. I learned that community is about recognizing when someone gets lost, loving them, and gently guiding them back to the light. This is especially crucial when your friends get lost in a National Forest.

Around mile six, the trail stopped at the edge of a 20-yard-wide river. We laughed out loud. The current was strong and the water was up almost to our waist. But, on the other side, we could see the trail start again. We had no choice but to wade across.

We jumped in and pulled each other through the swift parts of the current until everyone was across. No tumultuous waters could stop us! Before the end of the hike, we ended up needing to cross the river seven more times, and, thanks to the grace of God, each one of us made it to the other side each time. Our virtuous community must challenge us to face the current of the world around us and strive for Truth and virtue, no matter which way the eddies swirl.

Lord, Grant Us the Gift of Virtuous Community!

May God give each of us a great community of friends at all walks of our lives—from the green meadows to the raging rivers and everything in between.

I hope that, when we finish the hike, we’ll be able to look at those next to us and thank them for giving us the courage to continue bravely on the narrow path to the end. It is worth it.

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Ally Eidemueller is a Sophomore at Yale University studying economics. She loves exploring the mountains, finding the little joys in life, and watching football games just for the sake of rooting for the underdog.

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