Restoring our communities

Just a quick one today.

Last night, our parish held a dinner and bush dance. (For my American readers, bush dancing is derived from Irish and Scottish folk dancing and is similar to line or square dancing.) I wasn’t one of the organisers of this event but, once I found out about it, I eagerly got involved, helping to sell tickets and promote it.

Apart from the fact that I love dancing, I was eager to help run this event because I felt it tied in very closely with my own concerns about our lack of community within the Church. I’ve mentioned before that several older gentlemen responded to my article by lamenting the lack of social dances and other wholesome activities that used to help form parish life. As such, I was really excited when I saw this event was taking place, simply at the suggestion of one of my fellow parishioners.

It was such a great night! About 200-300 people turned up, and what I loved most was the wide range of ages present. There were infants, the elderly, and everyone in between. The kids absolutely loved the dancing (whether they understood the steps or not) while many of the older men and women looked on or caught up with friends around the edges of the dance floor. There were lots of big families present and everyone seemed to have a really good time.

What I was most struck by was just how normal it all was! Even though I never lived in a pre-fragmented Church, before seismic shifts in the Church and the wider world ruptured the state of play and parish life stopped being one’s major social scene, it all seemed so incredibly normal to me! Perhaps not ‘normal’ in the sense of what I was used to, but ‘normal’ in the sense of how things should be.

I felt this intuitively. No age-segregation, no exclusivity, no by-interest-only setup (not that there isn’t a place for each of these things as well); just wholesome, innocent fun.

And even though we Christians are being besieged by the radical left, even though we’re beset by spiritual fatigue, and even though it often seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket – for just a few hours last night, normality reigned supreme.

I just wish this were more common. I was this were the norm. There were lots of people from my parish there, but also plenty who weren’t. It was so heartwarming to see everyone, of different ages and from different parishes, coming together to eat, drink and be merry.

I really encourage you to think about doing something like this in your own church community. It doesn’t have to be a social dance, but any kind of activity that brings people together as a community, either in your own parish or across several, or perhaps in the religious community you’re a part of (although I do encourage people who belong to spiritual groups to branch out and connect with other Christians who might not be part of your regular social sphere). It could be a sports match, a miniature-Olympics, a big picnic or even a board games night.

The onus really is on us laymen to help revivify our communities, which have been drastically fragmented over the past few decades. There are so few of us practising Christians left, it’s never been more important to connect with each other. And if you can do this while having lots of good old-fashioned fun, what more can you ask for?

15 thoughts on “Restoring our communities

  1. Thanks for sharing Anna 🙂 How lovely. Yes, you’re right. With besiegement from the radial left and spiritual fatigue all too real, it’s often easy to become completely caught up in fighting the good fight and for one’s faith practices to become almost completely defensive in nature.
    But Jesus is Risen. The battle has been won. It is finished. And He is alive! Fun, enjoyment, social connectedness and dancing are important too. Thanks for the reminder! Happy Sunday 🙂

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  2. Seems that your parishes aren’t dead by any means.
    An acquaintance of mine who lives in Massachusetts tells me that parishes in his area are pretty much done for. I think the same is also true for my part of the country (Illinois).

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    1. It probably depends on where in Illinois you are. There’s a HUGE difference in leadership between Bp. Malloy (Rockford) and Bp. Jenky (Peoria). The latter appears willing to fight so that his flock can see, hear, and experience the other-worldly presence of God; the former, it seems, doesn’t want to make waves.

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  3. I was once chatting with an elderly couple and asked how they met. The woman had been an “old maid” of 26, and was crying to a friend about it. The friend told her to stop crying and clean herself up because they were going to the parish dance. The woman complained she had nothing to wear so the friend lent her a dress. At the dance there was an Irishman who was feeling lonely in the United States and she caught his eye. “What made you ask her to dance?” I asked. “It was a GREEN dress” he said.
    Those were simpler times, I guess, I don’t know if that sort of thing is possible anymore in the U.S. God wants Catholic families to form, Satan does not. Maybe there is no strategy for the church to employ, just prayer and holy suffering.

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      1. Yes Julia, it can be. I knew a guy in my hometown parish who died a year or two back, and he met his wife at a Catholic dance. Just went, saw her, and asked her to dance. Given he was in his eighties, I would say it was sometime 1950-60s. End result, 4 kids, and 16 grandchildren.
        But that was before Vatican 2 got rid of the ‘Catholic ghetto’ they so despised. That ghetto allowed Catholics to socialise together, and form social friendships and marriages.
        It would be very hard to reform such social ties or groups though, as there are more tech/media alternatives to physically meeting up, and far greater social expectations on attendees (everything gotta be Instagram-perfect). But if the effort isn’t made, there is little future for the church in the West. Few people will stay in any group that offers no social contact, even with the sacraments.
        One option is to run dance lessons prior to the actual dance. Most guys have never been taught any form of dance, so are less likely to attend any dance, whether bush dance or clubbing.

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  4. When I first read this, my initial reaction was to think of why my parish doesn’t do stuff like this. (Mostly it boils down to factionalism within the parish.) Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that those reasons aren’t much more than excuses. Just because we don’t do something doesn’t mean we can’t. All we really need is to have some people who are committed to doing something.
    Now, a dance actually sounds like the best suggestion. Games Nights tend to not attract as many people and the people who do go get divided up into small groups. Picnics also tend to have people dividing up into smaller groups. This isn’t a problem if there is already a community where people already all know each other, but it doesn’t really foster a sense of community. Dances still work if people don’t know each other (I’m reminded of the servicemen balls held during WWII). They are also largely non-verbal, which is good if language barriers are at play. Also, getting people to move to a common beat is a time-tested method for fostering a collective sense (which is why military marches used to be a thing). Of course, I’m probably biased by my own personal preferences (some of the most fun I’ve had has been at dances). Then again, community dances have been a staple of almost all societies since time immemorial, so there must be something to it.

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    1. Good on you, William! You’re so right. It just takes the initiative of one or a few individuals to make something like this work – although you might need to fundraise to get the money together. The lady who organised our one hired a band that also called out all the moves. But if you know someone who’s willing to volunteer to do that, so much the better. I wish you all the best with it!

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  5. Anna, do parishes in your part of Australia have annual parish festivals? I’ve seen more and more parishes here in the American Midwest — including my own — that have them. They often coincide with the beginning of the school year/traditional end of harvest. They are a great way for people to gather, physically see each other, catch up, and have fun together.

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    1. I’m in Australia, although not in Anna’s area. Parishes in Australia will have fundraising fetes for their schools, but that’s about it.

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  6. I did send Anna some info on our archdiocese’s festivals. It’s my theory that these festivals — like our county fairs — have a genesis in our agricultural heritage, though I’m looking only at the American Midwest.

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  7. Great point re: building authentic community! We all have the power to effect this if we feel it will feed our soul. Leah Libresco has a book out abut this sort of thing called “Building the Benedict Option.” This book, combined with my fatigue from lack of true community at church + encouragement from friends, led me to starting a spiritual book club at my house! Good advice I got was As long as it feeds your soul it will not become simply an obligation. That seems to be the key for me right now 🙂 you go do your thing, girl!!!

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