by Shannon McCoy
The lone wolf, rugged individual mentality is an architype long romanticized in American culture. From the early pioneers to present day, the “you can do it on your own” narrative remains ever popular. Needing assistance or guidance from others is often shortsightedly looked down upon as a sign of weakness or ineptitude.
Too often these themes reach into the lives of the faithful, especially for certain personality types. My faith life after college followed this trajectory. While the Newman Center and FOCUS bible studies provided stability and structure for my faith during college, my post-college faith experience was largely limited to weekly mass, sporadic daily prayer, and occasionally listening to a Catholic podcast. Faith had developed more into a “to-do list” than a source of true fulfillment, lacking meaningful depth. My spiritual efforts became an individual affair, with no one challenging me to grow towards a deeper relationship with Christ. My daily life primarily focused on secular achievements, such as professional development, rather than strengthening the religious bedrock all other accomplishments should be firmed rooted upon, and allowing my faith to permeate all parts of my life.
While seeking spiritual growth through individual prayer and refection is vital, limiting oneself to this is the equivalent of seeking to become a professional soccer player by only dribbling around cones, professional basketball player by only practicing your jump shot, or quarterback by only throwing through tires. You may develop and polish certain skills, but never become a truly well-balanced and complete team player. A higher level of achievement is never met until others are involved. The same can be said of our faith, which requires inner piety, but also the outward expression of our faith through community involvement.
Thankfully, after moving to Omaha, I discovered YCP, a special community that has helped progress my faith from solo pursuit to team effort. Our individual faith lives benefit tremendously from the support of others, but this is a two way street. For every benefit we receive individually, we are each called to bolster the faith of our peers. A faith community by definition cannot exist with only isolated individuals, it requires outreach to others. We achieve something far greater than the individual parts when this occurs. YCP is the epitome of growth through community, from speaker events and panels, to small group discussions and spiritual advising. We are each called to grow this community, and in doing so, we grow tremendously as individuals. Speaking to others openly about our faith journey often leads to personal revelations that would be unlikely to occur through only inner dialog and prayer.
Next time you are tempted to go it alone, remember the reward of fellowship, and how it leads to greater spiritual growth. Be a team player!
“We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”