I came to know the Emmanuel Community in Europe. In Italy to be more specific. It was there that I discovered the graces of this beautiful community that was so centered on the Eucharist. There, in Rome, in all of the Eternal City’s glory, I discovered a new path towards Christ. The richness of the Church is boundless!
It was through the brothers and sisters there that I grew in a deeper appreciation for what we term “community life”. In the Emmanuel community there are several times during the week, month and even year where we can spend time with others who are walking along the same path in the desire for holiness. All these moments comprise our “community life” so to speak.
We have weekly household meetings, where we gather to praise, share God’s Word and just spend time with a particular group that has been chosen for you (this can change year-to-year). On a monthly basis we have “community days” in which we spend an entire day together sharing in the liturgy, teachings, praise, prayer and even sharing a meal or two. Finally, on a yearly basis, once or twice, we would gather as a national community, for a weekend retreat. And how can I forget the many times when missions would take place in neighboring cities where we would all gather to evangelize on the streets.
Spending almost six years with the Italian community was such a grace and blessing. It was truly where Emmanuel became a part of who I am. However, the time to return home to the States inevitably came. At my departure, I realized the immense gift that the community was in my life and that the calling to live my Christian life with and through Emmanuel was concretely from God.
As I arrived home to Miami, Florida I soon encountered the desert that was to be my new community life. I had no one. It was disconcerting, to say the least. I participated in parish life, as all community members do, but I felt deeply that I was missing the heart of where God had called me to be. Soon enough though, as I began to encounter new and old friends, I spoke to them of my experience abroad and of course, of Emmanuel. Slowly I began my first small prayer group but it did not last very long.
A more stable household finally did spring forth but soon after I departed once again to discover a new desert in yet another place. As I persevered in my commitments of daily Mass, praise and adoration, I realized how much more the community meant to me in these times of desolation. Fast forward 3-4 years later and now, along with my husband, we find ourselves in a similar situation. Nonetheless, as much as the desert is vast, the spiritual recompense is even greater!
The Lord has regard for our weaknesses! Sometimes the Lord takes away what is most important to us spiritually so that we may desire Him all the more. We have never been too far off from receiving one or two brothers and sister here and there. The Lord allows us to drink a little bit at a time. But our thirst always remains great, for a thriving community life; at least something a bit closer than a 9 hour drive (or 1-2 hours by plane)!
The thought of living amongst many brothers and sisters and participating in the many activities, services and other events that these more bustling areas have to offer is still a dream. Yet, we press on and unite ourselves to all those brothers and sisters around the world, that like us, share in the desert of community life. Yet, we continue to rejoice in the gift that is Emmanuel: God with us!