Always remember to welcome strangers;
for by doing this, some people
have entertained angels, without knowing it.
69. Like Abraham at the oaks of Mamre we have felt the burden of the day and we have dozed off at the opening of our tents, alone. Unexpectedly, God has visited us in the persons of some brothers on a journey. We welcomed them, moving from our tents towards the shadow of a great tree, where we all felt refreshed. We, by giving from our wealth and from our poverty, they by leaving us the gift of a life that is richer, more human, more family-like.
A) Dream and reality
70. We found ourselves united – some with a lived experience, others with the desire for one – in appreciation for a community life in which we find the answer to our needs to grow and to mature as persons.
70.1 The community – the new family that God offers us – is the place where we live the giving of ourselves and receive the gift of others. Here we enter a relationship with the others as members of an authentic family, aware that – in sharing our lives together – we belong to one another.
70.2 Community life offers us an experience of human and evangelical communion, a space of freedom and of love that translates into a fuller life and a richer mission.
B) Our present situation
71. From the reports of the provinces come details of the steps taken towards bringing about communities that are more welcoming and fraternal, places to listen and to share – both life and prayer. Communities that live in the light of the benevolent gaze of God and of brothers. At the same time, the reports admit the continuation of quite a number of problematic community situations, marked by difficulty in accepting and understanding one another and in giving mutual support.
72. Without undervaluing the positive aspects and the steps taken (aware that light and shadow often go together) we took it as a priority to concentrate our attention and reflection on identifying these recurring difficulties and their causes.
73. Efforts and hardships
73.1 There are communities in which the time given to listening, to communication and personal sharing is seen as secondary, as though it were precious time taken away from work.
73.2 Verification and programming as a community is often reduced just to a sharing out of commitments.
73.3 We come across confreres who seem closed in on themselves and in their own individual world, with little ability to create significant human relationships.
73.4 Other difficulties due to differences in age, formation, sensitivity and mission experience also leave their mark.
73.5 Lastly, we observe the emergence and continuation of attitudes and expressions of negative judgement regarding confreres with different ethnic and cultural origins.
74.1 In the end we seem to be confused about what can enrich or impoverish our lives, make them impossible or truly human, for ourselves and for those who live with us. It is not a matter simply of calling for more common sense, but to acknowledge a lack of human wisdom.
74.2 Formation and spirituality that give little attention to the concrete life of persons – seen in the totality of their human, not just spiritual, expectations, and of the need for meaningful interpersonal relationships – are concomitant causes.
74.3 Individualism, which is constantly denounced in our documents, reveals an understanding of mission seen as the fruit of solitary and individual undertakings.
74.4 The Trinitarian basis of mission has not yet been sufficiently translated into a search for effective modes of communion among ourselves, in life, in evangelisation and in our spirituality.
74.5 That very Word that we feel we are called to proclaim afar finds it very hard to illuminate and touch our humdrum relationships and community contacts.
74.6 Our religious life sometimes seems to be too linked to the legalistic observance of the rules, and very little to mercy and to brotherly love, which is the heart of the Good News that liberates and gives life.
74.7 We take for granted the capacity to live in and face cross-cultural environments and communities in a serene and positive manner. We ask ourselves whether we are sufficiently helped to read our culture and our history with their good qualities and limitations, as also to read other cultures and histories to see how all complement one another, merit respect, and have a wealth of good qualities.
C) Returning brotherly love to the heart of community life
75. To foster a fraternal style of community life, we want to form welcoming communities where, first of all, we accept ourselves with our profound reality, with our good qualities and weaknesses, and respectfully accept our brother with his history, his personality and his culture.
76. We feel we need to keep building up communities where every confrere feels esteemed as a person, and where there are real possibilities to communicate and share with one another what we are, what we live and do, without dramatising one own weaknesses and errors, or those of the others.
77. To create relationships that help us grow in our lives we must cultivate the following attitudes: give time and space to being together, celebrate the important moments in the life of each one, be transparent in our behaviour, have common objectives and be positive in speaking.
78. We need, especially in the hardest times, experienced communities where mercy and pardon are found, able to offer a welcoming and healing space to confreres who have been battered by life.
79. The community celebration of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation brings us to share our deepest experiences of God. They strengthen our bonds of fraternity and they make us rediscover the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.
80. The experience of fraternal correction not only makes us aware of our fragility, but assures us of fraternal support in our personal and community journey.
81. In this aspect, the ministry of the superior is particularly valuable in animating fraternity, discernment and shared responsibility that make community life possible and meaningful.
D) The community: subject and object of mission
82. In a world that is deeply scarred by globalisation, where the success of the individual is often exalted to the detriment of everyone, the Comboni community becomes a sign of the kind of global village we want to construct. In it, internationality and cross-culturalism are lived as gifts and assets, not as problems or threats. Comboni wanted his work to be Catholic, and not Spanish or French or German or Italian (W 944).
83. The call to mission is indeed individual, but lived and expressed as community. Personal charisma and gifts enrich the mission and make missionary service more fruitful.
84. Life in common is already in itself the proclamation and a translation of the Gospel that we announce, a bringing into being of the Kingdom. “From this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35). The energies and the time invested in the building up of an authentic community are not spent to the detriment of the mission, but in its service.
85. The community is where discernment is carried out, and also the options, the implementation and the evaluation of the work and of the missionary service. All this fosters the continuity of the apostolic undertaking and helps to tackle the problems caused by rotation, by sickness and by unforeseen happenings. Comboni was the first to want mission to be carried out by a cenacle of apostles (W 2648) where diverse persons would be brought together for the one common project.
86. The sharing of goods and of material means in community is an expression of our self-giving to Christ. In turn, it becomes an alternative proposal to, and a prophetic denunciation of, materialism and consumerism that are dominant in a globalised world.
87. The people to whom we are sent and among whom we live are, in our eyes, God's gift, a source of conversion and a stimulus towards a life that is more evangelical and lived in solidarity with their poverty and wealth, their joys and sorrows.
88. All communities are called to be increasingly part of the context in which they are placed, and to live in solidarity and communion with the reality that surrounds them.
89. An authentic community life is an efficient instrument that God can use to draw people from different cultures and origins, and raise up in their hearts the desire to share our missionary life.
E) Programming elements for a renewed praxis in community
90. Provinces and communities should propose moments and paths of spirituality that take into account human and psychological aspects and implications.
91. During the whole formative journey more tools for the analysis, understanding and management of personality should be offered, thus permitting a growth in cross-cultural experience.
92. The effort to have communities made up of at least three persons must be continued.
93. For effective co-responsibility, all the members of the community must be involved in the drawing up of a common project, and in planning and the review of commitments.
94. Each province must organise formation courses that will help superiors to be animators of their communities. In choosing superiors, ability to animate the confreres must be taken into account.
95. Provinces should ask themselves to what extent the physical structures of some of their houses create surroundings that are suited to our present needs and requirements.
96. Through the necessary provincial discernment and with the collaboration of the GC, at the time of assigning confreres preference will be given to forms of community life – characterised by greater evangelical simplicity – that seek new ways of evangelisation, contemplation and fitting into their surroundings in accordance with our charism (cfr. CA ’85, No. 32; CA ’91, No. 31.5).