What is one of the greatest needs in our culture, aside from cohesive, functional, loving families? I would suggest the lack of community in modern culture has been a cause or contributing factor to many of the societal ills we experience today, in addition to being a most disastrous effect. For we are social beings created in the image of God who Himself is perfect relationship, and the reason God declared it is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18). We were made for God and others, to live and look outward, beyond ourselves, deepening familial and fraternal bonds of friendship, both for our sakes and for those we encounter. In fact Jesus sums up our whole mission in life in giving us a new commandment, to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34, 35). Remember Jesus went out throughout the country, meeting and touching the lives of others in His pursuit of the cross, rather than living an isolated life of virtual obscurity in his small Nazareth home.

Over the last few hundred years we’ve seen a regrettable shift in focus from God and other centeredness to self-centeredness in many areas, most detrimentally in religion. People now seem to believe that the sole reason one practices one’s faith, is in order that one might get to heaven. But that is the error of meology, not theology, for God’s goal is far different. Look at His great plan of salvation history. It’s never been just about me & Jesus. His plan is a wonderfully intelligent yet simple plan where personal conversion is only the first step, not the final goal. The entire history of Israel, and the Early Church shows that God wants this personal conversion to lead to family conversion, to conversion of tribe (community), nation, and then the whole world. Too many of us today stop at the first step, thinking that’s all we should care about. But God has a plan for the restoration of humanity, of His entire creation, because of the passion, death, and resurrection of His Son, and He wants and needs us, each of us, to be a part of it. Jesus didn’t die so that Daryl in Dubuque might go to heaven; He came to renew the face of the earth so that many would be saved, through His followers loving others as He taught us.

       Yet, sadly we not only fail to love others, but actually lock ourselves up the solitary confinement of our self-centered, secluded, cells of the soul.  Contrary to the reason we were created, and that which would bring us the most joy and fulfillment, we choose to live lives of isolation, seclusion, selfishness, in neighborhoods where we know none of our neighbors, and where actual face to face interpersonal interactions are avoided at all costs, becoming all but extinct. For my guess is that we will not be judged by our accumulations or accomplishments, or even by how much we know, understand, and study our faith, but how well, how fully, how deeply we love God and others.

       We see this antisocial trend even in our architecture, as homes which used to have large front porches for families to gather and greet all passersby, now have secluded backyard decks, where no one can see us, and we cannot see them. Even our front rooms which look out onto the street, most commonly living and dining rooms, are seldom if ever used,


as we live almost entirely in the private, rear of our homes, eliminating the chances to see and converse with our neighbors. People used to walk around the neighborhood not for exercise or to walk the dog, but to visit with neighbors, seeking out those gathered on their front porches, stopping by for a lemonade or sarsaparilla, sitting in the porch swing or rocking chairs for a spell, deepening their friendships, and cementing the sense of community. Today not only don’t we stop and chat with our neighbors, but we don’t even know them, don’t say hello, and painstakingly avoid eye contact with them.  It has gotten to the point where we can no longer call our neighborhoods communities, because there is no actual community taking place anymore.

       While technology was supposed to make our lives easier, freeing up our precious time to spend with family and friends, the converse is true, as less time is spent with family, friends, neighbors, than even a few generations ago. It would be one thing if our eschewing of the outside world was done to focus on the raising of our families in schools of Christian love, establishing holy sanctuaries and oases from the depraved culture, but too often we don’t, we just don’t want to be bothered by anyone. But even if the goal was to make our homes fortresses of solitude, peace, and love, that’s missing the larger point, for we’d still be hiding our bright light so needed in this culture of darkness under a bushel. This is where we need to start, opening up our homes and our hearts, inviting others into our own sanctum sanctorums.


      We need to reclaim and restore the sense of community, in our parishes and neighborhoods, seeking out rather than avoiding, those God puts in our lives and in our paths. Jesus told us the reason He came was “that we may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Unfortunately today we are living far less abundantly, virtually devoid of the love, zeal, joy, and gusto that we as Catholic Christians should have, as generation upon generation of Christians have done since the time of the apostles. That’s how the outside world knew who the early Christians were, and how the pagans were converted, by their countercultural lives of love, yet today there’s almost no way to tell who’s who. So what can we do? There’s no magic in it, just good old fashioned civility, hospitality, and friendliness, nothing more. Spend valuable, consequential time with your families, and teach them of the social, missionary nature of our faith. Show others the joy, love, and hope we have in in our hearts, being prepared to give others the reason (1 Peter 3:15), which is the joy we’ve found in Christ and our Catholic faith.  For this joy is magnetic, infectious, and contagious, but

only if we get close enough to others to spread this beneficial bacteria which can infect and ultimately transform the world in an epidemic of love. Treat others in our lives, even strangers and enemies, with dignity and respect, and as friends, taking advantage of every encounter, chance meeting, or encounter, as an opportunity to do the will of God, reflecting his divine love, as there are no coincidences with God. Let others see the joy you've found in your faith, and invite them to sit for a spell to discuss it, living not in the secluded, solitary, shallow back patio of life, but out in front, in the open, in the streets,  as a beacon of hope, and goodness, and charity. Live your life more fully, and joyfully, and teach your families to do likewise, going out into the deep, and soon, house by house, block by block you will transform your sterile, solitary, surroundings into an actual Christian community.

A Front Porch Faith