The purposes of our meetings is to form, to build,
and to maintain a personal relationship with God. We believe God gives
us each other so that through our laughter and tears and through our triumphs
and failures, we grow closer to, and we become more like Jesus Christ.
We believe that we are God's instrument, capable of performing His services.
Each month, we try to prepare food for and to feed the homeless. During
Christmas vacation, some of us go to Tijuana with a group of nuns to distribute
food, clothes, and toys to the poor. We also carol for senior citizens
at convalescent homes throughout Southern California.
We may sound like a bunch of serious folks, but we have fun too (sometimes too much fun!!!). There are annual Christmas gatherings, Easter picnics, Halloween trick-or-treating, graduation parties, and camping trips. At these events, eating and playing are the major activities. Recently, we dine together on Friday nights; after which we go bowling or watch a movie together. Our annual fundraising events are the Valentine's Candy Sale and the hand car-wash. Our own production line sorts, packages, and wraps individual boxes of colorful and delicious candies to sell on campus on Valentine's Day. The car-wash takes place in the summer. We are proud to say that we use "real" car washing soap instead of dishwashing liquid. The majority of the profit helps pay for retreats. All these events help members bond with one another and build lasting friendships.
A simplified recount of our founding is that Dong Hanh (translates as "companions of Christ") was established by anh Peter (Cuong) Ta and anh Dat Nguyen in 1978. They wanted the Linh Thao (translates as "spiritual exercise") movement that was growing in Vietnam, to exist in the United States as well. Hence, with the help of Cha Thanh (a Jesuit), who is part of the Christian Life Community (CLC), in 1983, Linh Thao was established in Orange County. Today, there are fourteen groups dispersed throughout Orange County, and there are groups in Canada, Arizona, Oregon, Maryland, New Orleans, and Boston. We gather to meet about every three years or so. Our adopted methods are based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Linh Thao movement during the 16th century in Spain, and then the movement was accepted by the Pope shortly therafter. The movement immediately spread throughout Europe and throughout the world through CLC. Dong Hanh drew its methods from CLC. Linh Thao helps us to find God in our daily existence and to realize our purpose in life.
Christian Life Community traces its roots to St. Ignatius Loyola, who, as a soldier recovering from his battle wounds, was given an extraordinary grace of conversion.That mystical experience of God led to his total dedication to Christ and his mission.After his conversion, Ignatius sought to help others by speaking with them in groups about the work of God in their lives. He guided many towards God by drawing on his own spiritual experiences and gradually formulated the Spiritual Exercises to help future guides lead others to God. The Exercises thus helped the development of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the congregation of lay persons, which became the Sodalities of Our Lady, from which the Christian Life Communities developed after Vatican II. After Society of Jesus was suppressed in the mid-1700s, the link with the Spiritual Exercises faded until its rediscovery after Vatican II.
In 1563 in Rome, a young Jesuit, John Leunis, founded the first CLC by gathering a group of young lay students at the Roman College to help them unite their lives -- jobs, studies, families, relationships, etc. -- with Christian values. The movement, originally called the Sodality of Our Lady, grew and was confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. Over the years the movement spread dramatically. In 1920 there were 80,000 sodalities worldwide. In the 1950s in the U.S., there were over two million teenage members and numerous adult members. When Vatican II urged groups like the Sodality to rediscover their original roots, some sodalities continued as before,while others became Christian Life Communities. The main difference is in the size (6 to 12) and the regularity of meeting (weekly or biweekly). Jesuits and the Spiritual Exercises have continued in a close relationship with the CLC.
CLC Spirituality in Daily Life
What makes CLC different from every other way of following Christ is the characteristic of our Spirituality which is according to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. This doesn't mean just a retreat experience but a whole way of living in the world which incorporates the spiritual dynamics of the Exercises. Five points are worth mentioning.
Finding God in All Things
Saint Ignatius means an openness to God in each concrete situation of our daily life. For St. Ignatius, and for us this is the purpose and central element in our way of life.
Following the Spirit
In order to find God in all things, a person and the community must be able to hear and respond to the callings of His Spirit. This means attentiveness to the flow of interior moods, desires or feelings and the thoughts that accompany them; there is a need for vigilance because the power of good and evil influence me from within my head and without, through persons, cultural values, etc. This doesn't, give magic answers but the peace which is God's gift serves as a touchstone within me for living and choosing what will be a more loving response in the circumstances at hand.
Collaboration with Jesus
Following the Spirit is only possible for a person rooted in the knowledge and love of Jesus. God's Kingdom was established through Christ's victory on the cross and is coming to fullness in the world in each person and situation through the Lordship of Jesus. Collaborating with Jesus in this struggle leads to intimacy with Jesus - poor, rejected, powerless. The peace bought by this enables me to sense where I am unfree, especially with regard to wealth, power,esteem.
Living and choosing in loving collaboration with Jesus means too, that my life with others will be 'together'. God has created us in relationships: with himself, other persons and the universe. We are to be part of his continuing creation. Where there is alienation we are called to be a force for God's healing, a force for peace, born of justice.
Living in True Freedom
Gathering all these elements together, a Spiritual Exercises way of living means living in the freedom for which we are created. Part of the gift of creation is that we are free to plot our course, but we are also called to a freedom which is an authentic, live, loving collaboration with Jesus freedom from all that threatens Christ's Kingdom in us and in the world, freedom for a response to concrete situations
As a retreat experience, the Spiritual Exercises are another particularly rich and powerful experience of the same way of living, only now in the situation of retreat, prayer and reflection. Their purpose, says Ignatius, is to lead a person to true spiritual freedom. There are two formats for experiencing the "full" Exercises. One is experiencing them in a thirty-day period during which one meets daily with a spiritual director and has regular prayer periods. Another format that is especially popular with lay persons is the "retreat in daily life", in which the retreatant meets regularly with a -spiritual director, has daily prayer periods, but continues living in his/her usual environment. The retreat experience lasts for several months. During an experience of the Exercises, the five marks of our way of living are sought and deepened as personal gift in an encounter with God. The freedom I have been given is to be transformed as my relationships are in order, as Christ becomes a personal friend with whom I can collaborate, attentive to follow His Spirit in building the Kingdom - all this so that I will be truly free to find God in all things. God comes to meet me where I am now and transforms my freedom, drawing me to know and love him more, enabling me to better find Him in all things and in every situation of my life. Retreat and daily existence: Two different ways of living the same loving collaboration with Jesus which is characteristic of our CLC spirituality.