The December issue of Magnificat opens with an exceptionally beautiful and deeply personalistic meditation by Peter John Cameron, O.P. on the mystery of communion. That mystery—the mystery of a person’s being defined simultaneously by his essential self-standing and self-possession and by his being ordered-to-communion with others—is the central philosophical preoccupation of personalism.
Here is Fr. Cameron:
The loneliness that once afflicted Adam in Eden has never left us alone. Deep inside each one of us knows to be myself I need someone else. We are made with a capacity for personal life which is so profound that we cannot realize it alone. This capacity we call “communion.” In fact, things start to go wrong the moment we perceive that we do not belong—that we are not wanted, loved, prized, protected, and provided for. To belong is to have others inside us. The very way we approach life—seeing, feeling, judging—come from what we belong to.
Conversely, if we were to belong to nothing, we would be nothing. And that nothingness, we know, quickly overwhelms us whenever we find ourselves isolated or alienated or left in solitariness.
Then, showing the paradoxical link between self-giving and self-standing, he quotes Pope Benedict writing, “true relationship that becomes ‘communion’ can be born only in the deep places of the human I.”
This is a point that needs further developing. It is a point, in my experience, that tends to be underplayed by many Catholic personalists, namely that a strong sense of my individual selfhood and self-possession is the condition of the wholesome self-giving and other-receiving of true communion. For anyone with this tendency, John Crosby’s Selfhood of the Human Person is the needed antidote.