The Community of Saint John: An Outline
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Publisher:Saint John Publications
Translator:Community of Saint John
Structures that have endured for millennia in the Church suddenly seem on the verge of collapse. Everything is being called into question, even the foundation of the faith itself. Unable to see past the confusion, many Christians have ruefully opted for disengagement. Others are eager to go back to the origins, but seem unable to find their way. Perhaps it’s because they’ve forgotten just how much of a scandal the Christian message was—first for the disciples and then for the rest of the world they preached to after Easter.
If we want to build anything durable today, we need to get back to the original bedrock of the Gospel. Francis stripped naked before the bishop of Assisi in order to clothe himself with Christ alone. Today, it’s the most radical commitment that speaks the clearest Christian language.
The aim of our Community is to retain nothing for ourselves, but to give everything over for the service of God and neighbor: our possessions (poverty), our bodies (chastity), and our minds (total availability). We honor marriage as a high ideal and admire other people who, Christian or not, live it out in a spirit of renunciation. But Christ’s love commandingly calls us to his own form of life. By his undivided service to the Father and to mankind, even to the point of dying on the Cross, he changed the condition of the world. We want to follow him in the joy and simplicity of the Gospel. Throughout the whole of his work in earth, Christ kept his eyes lovingly fixed on the Father. Our encounter with our neighbor, or with the challenges and problems of the world, should reflect the same focus on God and his glad tidings. The Lord’s teaching and example are clear: devotion to God and care for the world require and enhance each other.
Christ was totally obedient to the Father, and he showed it by assuming full personal responsibility for his work on behalf of the world. We, too, want to prove that believers can think with the Church and be free, responsible agents at the same time—despite the resignation and critique of many Christians today.
The Community is open to younger men and women desirous of living out their secular professions (which should preferably involve some service to the common good) in the same spirit of self-gift. The Community also seeks priests willing to bring that spirit to the work they do for Church and world.
We live either in small groups or alone and meet for common discussion and spiritual refreshment. After a suitable time of probation we take temporary promises; permanent ones expressing definitive commitment eventually follow. For Christians, willingness to die for a trial period doesn’t count: only the seed ready to die once and for all can bear fruit.
We look to John the Evangelist as our patron because of his affinity with both Peter and Mary, that is, with the visible Church of sinners (Peter) and the hidden Church of the saints (Mary). Thanks to his special intimacy with each one, he can unite both from the middle—without ever claiming center stage for himself.
- Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Our Task. A Report and a Plan. Ignatius Press, 1994. | Original: Unser Auftrag. Bericht und Entwurf. Johannes Verlag, 1984.
- ―. The Laity and the Life of the Counsels. The Church’s Mission in the World. Ignatius Press, 2003. | Original: Gottbereites Leben. Der Laie und der Rätestand. Nachfolge Christi in der heutigen Welt. Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, 1993.
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