In the midst of the creation myth in Genesis, God says “it is not right that man should be alone”. We don’t flourish as people by being isolated and living by ourselves, but by engaging as full members of our community. We have an obligation to help and support others around us while at the same time allowing ourselves to be supported. The place most of us first experience a community in our lives is in the family, and so it is from here that the themes of Community and Participation develop.
Beyond the family we’re called to participate fully in the life of wider society. For most of us this means an obligation to participate fully in the political life, civil society and the economic life of their community. This could range from things like involvement in movements for justice to volunteering with local community associations.
Within the theme of Participation, Catholic Social Teaching advocates political involvement, but this has always been set somewhat apart from political ideologies like communism and neo-liberalism. Because of the vastly different circumstances of culture and situation Catholic Social Teaching also tends not to get into a lot of very specific details, but rather focuses on the themes in such a way that allows people to understand them in their own context. What Catholic Social Teaching does say in this area is around the principle of subsidiarity; that responsibility for social and political decisions should be held that lowest and most appropriate local level so to allow everyone in communities to be involved in decision-making.
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Community and Participation Quotes
"The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades."
Pope Francis, Evangelli gaudium
"Just as each of our bodies has several parts and each part has a separate function, so all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other."
Paul's Letter to the Romans
"It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth"
Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno
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