Opinion: “Catholic communes” are good for the Church and for society

By Mia Brounstein

I’ve heard the joke more times than I can count: “We should just form a commune when we start families!” It seems that more and more students at Franciscan are semi-seriously suggesting commune life as a solution to the problems of living in the modern world. 
If handled properly, I actually think that this could be truly beneficial. 
Before I get into why, I have to explain what I mean by “Catholic communes.” I’m not referring to hippie camps buried in the woods or backwards, secluded communities akin to M. Knight Shyamalan’s “The Village.” 
The type of Catholic communes that I envision are in the spirit of the early Christian church: tightly-knit communities of the faithful that focus on worshipping together and caring for each other and (this is crucial) the larger, secular communities that they are a part of. 
The modern world has all but done away with this type of community. We don’t know our neighbors, we keep to ourselves at church and are blind to the ways we could use our possessions and talents to help those immediately around us.  
In the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 
If we have any intention of changing the culture we live in and raising up strong Catholic families, we must return to a way of life that actually encourages a healthy kind of interdependence. 
A wonderful modern example of this type of commune was pioneered by Servant of God Dorothy Day, whose Catholic Worker Houses now exist across the country. These houses are run by groups of faithful volunteers or permanent residents who, depending on the house, may spend their time caring for a community garden, running free childcare hours, feeding the homeless and praying the Liturgy of the Hours together, among many other small missions. 
It’s the sort of thing that St. Paul would probably be into if he was still out writing letters to small communities of faithful Christians. Where did we go wrong that communities like this are seen as so alien? 
In America, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been gradually sucked into a greater and greater suspicion of other human beings and consequent clinging to self-sufficiency. This attitude has fed into our isolation, selfishness, fixation on convenience and general consumerist lifestyle. 
We were not created to live in this way. The effects of so many modern crises—depression, loneliness, poverty, homelessness, hunger, lack of affordable housing and childcare—could be alleviated if, on a small scale, we made an effort as Catholics to provide for the needs of our neighbors whenever possible. 
Communal living in the model of early Christianity would allow us to build stronger relationships, be less attached to our worldly possessions and experience the Church Militant as a true community of brothers and sisters striving to bring one another to heaven. 
I’m down if you are.