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Friday, 2 January 2015

I Lied

Months ago, I said I would not write any more posts on community. I lied.

I have been thinking about community while I have been in Malta. Malta is an island of communities, but they rarely overlap.

Most Maltese and Gozitans see their families as their primary communities, which is natural and good. This was a greater good when the families were all practicing Catholics, but with the falling away of the youth and the dying out of the stalwart old Catholics, family life is no longer Catholic community life.

Many families do not go to church together. And, with the new large and obvious immigrant populations, there are new non-Christians communites which do not overlap.

Of course, the old British ex-pat communities do not overlap, either. If I could, I would draw many, many circles over Malta which never, like Venn Diagrams, create subsets. These are the isolated and intrinsic communities of Malta and Gozo.

But, with the loss of religion as the glue keeping families together, some communities have faded away. And, as in all EU countries, young people move for careers elsewhere. The new people coming to Malta have money, but many are self-employed or connected to foreign companies. Therefore, the overlapping of business communities is changing as well

It is extremely interesting to me, to live for months in a country the size of my home city, that I have discovered many Maltese and Gozitans who have rarely been to other places outside their own towns or cities. When I discuss that I get on a bus and go to the English Mass in Sliema from St. Andrew's, people are astounded. I am, apparently, outside my so-called community. But, there is none here.

Neighbors say hello but no one goes into each other's houses, like we use to do in the Midwest.

Houses are family bastions, or have been. But, Malta and Gozo need a big dose of community building. The government thinks that events like marathons and holiday concerts do the trick, but those things are ephemeral. Real community is about the day to day commitment of others to each other.

There is nothing like the Bruderhof here, no groups which come together and stay together for religious purposes. Most of the orders are dying out, except for one or two, and like the families, those institutions which were based on religion are having trouble finding people to join in any really committed way.

I am becoming convinced of two phenomena. One is that cities absolutely must have a core of Christian communities in order to serve each other and for the sake of evangelization. The group which comprises my best friends here is one which is made up of very close friends who are also mature Catholic women, but they are very small, even for Malta.

The second thing of which I am convinced is that those of us who have experienced community must get on with creating some before it is too late and it is almost too late.

Real communities have faith, hope, and love at the core. A long time ago, a woman in England told me I was a community builder. Sadly, I have not had the ability to live in one place long enough to do this. As a catalyst type of person, I know I am a community builder. I know how not only to organize but to encourage, which the early Christians did by having communities.

Families need communities to survive. To think that the small, or even large family unit can survive in a vacuum is a fantasy. Sometimes families move thinking that they will find a community and are disappointed when this just does not happen.

Communities just do not happen. People have to be committed to making them happen. I am afraid that the increasing fragmentation of the Maltese culture will make it harder and harder to have real communities.

I pray for a renewal of the Church here, because the Church must be the center of any real, working, effective community. I love Malta and her people, but I fear for the future of the Church here unless people work at community. If I could stay, I would build community, as I have in other places. Individual families, or even extended families wherein young ones are not getting married, not having children, cannot sustain the Faith on their own.

It is time to start thinking of real podding in Malta.