Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Friends

What is both fascinating and frustrating about Communion and Liberation in the Boston-Cambridge area is its fluidity. Groups change members, in significant numbers, from one year to the next. Each year friends you have grown to love and admire move on to other cities and universities, after finishing one-year, two-year, or longer fellowships and courses of study. Many in CL are in their 20s and 30s, and few are dummies. You’re talking physicists, physicians, academics-in-the-making here, many of them working on PhD’s and research. When one crop of friends is harvested and moves on, another is planted. I doubt that the crops rotate faster in any other city than in this double city along the Charles River. 

Yesterday evening, there was a “mega–School of Community” at Mass General Hospital bringing together CLers from MGH, Harvard, MIT, and the Longwood Medical Area, where Harvard Medical School is located. About 50 people filled the small lecture hall. I knew less than half of them, and I have been hanging around Boston-Cambridge CL for over two years now. This influx of new people means one is always making new friendships (good) while saying good-bye to old ones (hard). I miss Lele, Alessandro, Andrea, and others who are now relocated to Chicago, Montreal, New York, and elsewhere.

But last night I met Molly, Davide, José, and Tom, while catching up with Lorenzo, Moira, Federico, Francesco, and others. Davide is a graduate student in political science at Harvard University; José an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School; and Tom—I’m not sure what Tom does, except that he talks a good Aquinas and is a dead ringer for the young Dominican scholar Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP.

For all the academic credentials of these three young men, I was especially struck by Molly. She is why the logo of L’Arche appears at the top of this post.

Molly is 23 and at least two years out of college. Already she has worked with two Catholic volunteer organizations. This year she is working with the L’Arche community in Haverhill, Massachusetts, an aging mill town on the Merrimack River, 45 minutes north of Boston by car. Molly, who has no car, takes the train to Boston. Fortunately, Tuesday is one of her days off, along with Monday.

Like others who volunteer with L’Arche, Molly lives in community with other volunteers and a small group of mentally disabled people. You can read about L’Arche here. There are 137 L’Arche communities around the world. I first read about L’Arche while reading Henri Nouwen, a great priest and academic (Notre Dame, Harvard, Yale) who spent his final years in a L’Arche community in Toronto. He died there in 1996.

Molly impressed me with her intelligence, candor, and kindness. I did not spend more than 15 minutes talking with her, but I will look forward to seeing her again at other Boston-area CL events. Until she moves on, anyway.

What is striking about CL itself is not so much the readings or the discussions of the readings, which can get as turgid as any other discussions in academic cities, though they are not supposed to. Get turgid, that is. Talk in School of Community is supposed to center on one’s life experience, as it relates to the reading, but since so many academics live in their minds, their experience is often mind stuff.

No, what is striking about CL is the people, like Molly, who “follow the Movement,” as a means of following Christ. They are the living face of the Church to me, and in important ways that never changes.


  1. W:I am having the same experience/ So many wonderful ppl in their 20s and 30s who are here for a year or two or three and then move on. It's hard sometimes for an old lady like me.

  2. Old lady, LOL! You don't know "old" sister! Wait until the big 6-0. Hope you're all doing well in Joisy.


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