ELEVENTH DAY: Edify Community through charity
The Community is, first of all, a community of love, of spiritual affection among us. And this is essential because if we don’t have love for one another, we are liars. We cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. You all know this, but you must never forget it (E034).
Just as the first Christian community was born at Pentecost, the Outpouring of the Spirit for Pierre Goursat and Martine Laffitte in February 1972 was the origin of the Emmanuel Community. For forty years, Pierre had acted alone. Now the Lord was giving him brothers and sisters. Pierre was aware that the community that was taking shape around him was not of human work. God was cutting, polishing and adjusting the “living stones” of this fragile building under construction (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). Pierre carefully watched over the quality of fraternal life. He waited several years before beginning a “community of life” so that it would be the fruit of true spiritual communion:
It is really necessary that your prayer groups be warm and full of charity so that little by little some souls who feel a call to community life may be born in the midst of these prayer groups. But this is in the Lord’s time. We must not precede the Lord, we must wait (E037).
Fraternal charity is the cement of every Christian community:
To love one another as God has loved us does not seem easy, but it is very easy because He has given us His love. The Holy Spirit loves us and we are united by Him. Then it is easy! (E017).
Tertullian testified that pagans were converted when they saw the love that reigned among Christians: “See how they love one another! “(Apologetics, n. 39 § 7; cf. Jn 13:35). What was true at the beginning of Christianity is still true today: With Pentecost, the Holy Spirit immerses us in love with one another (E012). Pierre attached little importance to the organization of the Community and focused on the essential: If there is no love, it is as if there is no gas in a car: it will not work (E037).
The Community is a school of charity and humility: “Put on feelings of tender compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience” (Col 3:12). The “humility of charity” favors communion among people and disposes us to have a “positive” view of them. When we live together, we are soon annoyed, exasperated by the flaws of others.
Pierre invited us to ask the Lord to show us the qualities of our brothers and sisters in the Community. Rather than comparing ourselves to them, we learn to recognize their talents and to rejoice in them: “Let each one, in humility, esteem others above himself” (Phil 2:2-3). We are then happy to be of service and to exercise charity in a concrete way, living self-denial and self-giving in the many opportunities provided by community life:
It is important to accept small services to the right, to the left, what we are asked to do, because this creates love, joy and true charity in the Community (E061).
Pierre Goursat often recalled that an isolated Christian is in danger and that, conversely, “a brother supported by a brother is a fortified city” (cf. Pr 18:19). He considered community life to be indispensable for a Christian today.
In the Community, he said, we are roped together, in solidarity with one another, so that we do not “unscrew”:
We cannot sanctify ourselves alone. Especially in the world we live in, we can’t do it alone. And if we are not together, we fall apart (E025).
Community is a support for living our commitment to following Christ more radically: The Lord wants us to live in community, He really wants us to have the support of the brothers (E023). It is in this spirit that in September 1976, the small groups and personal companionship were proposed to the members of Emmanuel as the two pillars of community life: It is necessary that all together we carry one another, because alone we do not make it, but all together we hold together (E041).
These places of sharing and prayer for one another promote conversion, human growth and the sanctification of each person. In the spiritual life, if we do not progress, we “go around in circles“, said Pierre, exhorting his brothers and sisters: “We must go forward, and we cannot go forward alone; but together we can truly go forward” (E016).
Pierre Goursat marveled that the Community was holding firm, growing and becoming stronger, while everything was humanly opposed to his first household mates who had strong temperaments and strong characters:
What is amazing is to see that the Holy Spirit unites us. One has the impression that one is a sprout and that the sprout is tied to the others; and if ever this sprout were loose, everything would fall, but with the Holy Spirit everything holds together (E012).
To preserve this precious gift of unity, Pierre was careful to defuse any initial discord. He, who was born into a family of humorists, knew that irony could deeply wound and degenerate into malevolence, with harmful and lasting consequences. He distinguished between “critical thinking”, which is necessary to analyze situations and evaluate people, and “a critical spirit”, which is a negative value judgment.
The only rule he imposed on the members of the Community is to never criticize… even in jest! He was intransigent on this point and did not hesitate, when necessary, to practice fraternal correction. To a sister who was inclined to criticize, he said: “If you continue, your place is not in the Community! »
Having personally suffered unjust criticism, Pierre Goursat proposed to the leaders of the “new communities” a “charter of charity” by which they undertook not to criticize other communities and to speak well of them. It was inspired by an article he had published in 1978 in the magazine Il est Vivant! entitled “The exercise of charity“:
When something goes wrong in my community:
1) consider myself responsible and pray that it will improve;
2) do not talk to people who I might needlessly disturb, without solving the underlying problem;
3) pray to know to whom to talk, when to talk to them, and what it is appropriate to say (IEVI19).
A community can only be built on mutual respect and discretion. Pierre invited each one to “hold their tongue” (cf. Jas 1:26) and to banish gossip which is a source of discord and division:
The time we formerly spent in criticism, in vain words, we should now spend praying for our brothers and sisters, and begging the Lord to complete His work of conversion in them (IEV19).
Lord, we entrust the Church, our Pope, our bishops, our priests and all our Christian brothers and sisters, to you. Help us to work in unity, so that the Gospel may be widely proclaimed to all