Religious life is often lived in a community while diocesan life, especially today, is more a solitary life. This doesn't mean diocesan priests are more/less lonely than religious, rather this is how the different vocations are lived. The dynamic of that community is an aspect not often considered by many, and by not recognizing the focus of community is to misunderstand religious life altogether.
The concept of living in community is so alien to most, I often have to use metaphors to describe different aspects of my life. At times, I feel like I am part of a fraternity. It's fun, we find ways to help each other out, we waste time together, we take the same classes and share notes on homework; there's a college feel to everything. At times, community feels more like Socialism: we pool our money, we share duties, we collectively work for all friars in the province, and we live off of a stipend.
Other times community can feel like a dysfunctional family. By not being able to choose who is part of your community, you may live with people you don't like, people who are annoying, or people who have a way of saying/doing things that grind on your nerves. Your only way to survive in this community is to either address these issues in a polite and respectful manner or to quietly suffer. Perhaps community could be that younger sibling, always tagging along and wanting to be around, while you try harder and harder to assert your independence.
People often wonder why someone would choose to pick this lifestyle. Why choose to share homes, cars, money, and other assets with others? Why give up a future with a wife and kids to live with other celibate men? Why would anyone choose to give up part of their individuality to become part of a greater community?
Why? Sometimes even I have to take a minute and remember.
By living in community, I am choosing to live an apostolic life amongst others. Part of that apostolic life is to bring people together of all backgrounds, lifestyles, and cultures. By living this sense of brotherhood, it is easier for me to spread it to others in the community.
Understanding and living community is not easy, nor is it for everyone. Our backgrounds, our families, and our own experiences form our minds and how we relate to others. As I will talk about tomorrow, there have been guys I've lived with who are not able to live in community. One decided to leave on his own, the other was asked to leave by the formation director. They are both examples of how community isn't always what God has planned.
So for those of you who are considering a vocation with a religious order, the first and foremost question you must ask yourself, before deciding which order fits you, is asking yourself: "Can I live in a community with other people and their own nuances?"
I'll show you examples of some people who couldn't do that.