In writing of “Basic Communities” or small groups, Pope John Paul II mentions the importance of being in communion. He looks to the ideal Christian community described by Saint Luke and its focus on liturgy and charity as outward signs of a deeper and committed communion:
Every community, if it is to be Christian, must be founded on Christ and live in him, as it listens to the word of God, focuses its prayer on the Eucharist, lives in a communion marked by oneness of heart and soul, and shares according to the needs of its members (cf. Acts 2:42-47).
Roman Catholics would stress the importance of communion with a clerical hierarchy including local pastors as well as the teaching office of the Church:
As Pope Paul VI recalled, every community must live in union with the particular and the universal Church, in heartfelt communion with the Church’s pastors and the Magisterium, with a commitment to missionary outreach and without yielding to isolationism or ideological exploitation.(Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 58) And the Synod of Bishops stated: “Because the Church is communion, the new ‘basic communities,’ if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church.”(Extraordinary Assembly of 1985, Final Report, II, C, 6)
In theory, this is excellent. With various strains operating in the hierarchy, sometimes we have confusion instead of communion. Some pastors and bishops are not totally on board with the form of discipleship needed to fulfill the missionary impulse of Jesus. The institution has replaced the Lord’s mandate, or been allowed to overshadow it. We also know that many small groups, adrift of serious spiritual direction and discernment, may easily go off in a dangerous direction, abusing members, losing a sense of mission, getting sidetracked in peripherals. Where there is trust between people who disagree, there would be the best ground on which to lay good foundations. Surface agreement doesn’t always mean the mission is on track.
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