January, February and March are the most difficult months of the year for someone like me-a lover of sunlight. The days are short, and, in my area, the temperature is cold and icy. It's also the time of year when Praying College Moms bid farewell to college-aged young adults who may not return until Easter, or even the end of the semester. It can be a longest stretch of separation during the school year, adding a tinge of grief to what can easily be a melancholy time of year.
Did you know that a cure for the wintertime blues is just a phone call away? Not a click away, or a Netflix series away, or a glass of wine away… What we really need at times like this is each other in COMMUNITY. We need our friends for our physical, mental and spiritual health. We will even live longer if we foster close interpersonal connections. Take a look at this two-minute video which proves my point.
Not only do communities foster physical longevity and mental health, but communities like Praying College Moms are important for our spiritual well-being. Scripture tells us that "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt. 18:20. When we gather together to pray for our college-aged young adults, Christ joins us. He blesses our children, no matter how far away they are. He blesses us, whether or not we feel worthy or we feel the difference. And Christ blesses our friendships in a unique and powerful way. There's nothing as fulfilling as a Christ-centered friendship, right?
Living in community can be hard in this day and age because so many cultural factors work against us. "Commuting, suburbanization, entertainment, financial pressure, and indifference toward civic responsibilities…have created an isolated population." * Who has the time to reach out to neighbors, cultivate new friendships, put ourselves at the service of others? Yet, the Gospels are clear. We are called to love one another. "As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” John 13:34. Loving each other doesn't have to take gobs of time. Sharing a quick coffee with a friend or chatting with an acquaintance at the store is never a waste of time for a Christian. Want to get super practical? How about...
1. Scrolling through your contact list in your phone and reaching out to one person you haven't spoken to recently to set up a time to get together.
2. Making a point to strike up a conversation with _______
3. Saying hello to every person you encounter on your next errand
I pray that you are graced by gathering with other Praying College Moms. And, if so, perhaps you're even willing to be an "apostle of community": a friend of Christ with a strong desire to bring individuals together to create healthy, thriving community. During your next time of quiet reflection, you might ask yourself,
"Is my family at peace and thriving? Are my college-aged young adults connected and aware that their family loves and supports them? Lord, I am your humble servant. Is there something I do to better serve my family?"
"Is my parish a welcoming, Christ-centered community? Lord, I am your humble servant. Is there something I do to light a fire there?"
"Do my neighbors know each other? Are we friendly and supportive of each other? Lord, I am your humble servant. Is there something I can do to build up the neighborhood?"
"At work, are we kind and friendly to each other, and dedicated to doing the best possible job? Lord, I am your humble servant. Is there something I do to bring Your light to the workplace?"
There's no need to feel pressured to initiate change, or to be anxious about imperfections you see in your community. After all, we can do nothing without Christ, (John 15:5) Our Lord has enough power, enough inspiration, enough gentleness and compassion, and enough patience to help us become the "apostles of community" He intends for us to be. He'll let us know when and how to radiate His love to the larger community. By spending time daily in prayer with the Lord, He not only guides us to DO what He asks, our Lord enlightens our minds, illuminates our spirit, and brightens our winter days. After all, He is the "Light of the World!" Thanks be to God!
*Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), p. 284.