Reflecting on the connection between Occupy Wall Street and Religious Life, I take inspiration from some 20th century visionaries such as Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and Deitrich Bonhoeffer who all saw that the key to living radical Christian life in today's world is community.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) began to live that dream in Germany in the midst of the Second World War. It was in community that he and others found the wisdom and courage to confront their horrific situation. They sought to live the gospel with fidelity and to challenge both church and state to stop the violent and genocidal program of the Nazi regime. This proved to be costly; Bonhoeffer and some of his collaborators lost their lives holding fast to their ideals. Articulated in harsh situations and nurtured by sacrifice, these ideals live on in a growing movement called the 'new monasticism.'
In New York, Bonhoeffer's contemporaries were launching the Catholic Worker movement. With Dorothy Day (1897-1980) at the lead, Catholic Workers founded communities of hospitality where it is 'easier to be good.' These are places where gospel values are deliberately and systematically integrated into the life of the community through personal commitment and regular clarification of thought and values.
Jean Vanier (1928-) created L'Arche, a movement of intentional communities of friendship and mutuality between people who have disabilities and others. He too saw that the communities are the places of healing and hope for those who share community, and for those in their network of relationships.
Today's intentional community movement has continued down to our own day with many young people seeking to join communities, particularly during and after college. There are many volunteer programs that offer participants an experience of community as they give a year or more of their lives in service to the poor and marginalized. Others commit themselves long term to these communities where they can live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)
The middle generation of religious, those not so young and not so old, are coming to rediscover the importance of community for their own lives, for their work, and for the future of religious life itself.
--Amy Hereford csj