Pierre Laslandes

priest, ccn, Abbaye de Sablonceaux

8 juin 2024

Joint fund

Sharing multiplies

50 years of life, 50 years of sharing and, as Laurent has often said, "sharing multiplies". The common purse is one aspect of this fifty-year old community life which, in practical terms, links us together in some thirty countries.

FOI : At what point did the Community choose to have a « single fund »?

P.L. : From the outset, the Community has always opted for a single fund. In September 1974, the community held its first retreat at St Hugues de Bivier near Grenoble. One of the four points that came out of it: sharing what we have to express our willingness to share what we are. At Christmas 1974, we made our first commitment: to obey community discernment.

At the same time, the house at 49 Montée du Chemin Neuf, which was on loan to us, had to be sold. Thinking of the Community as a provisional that could last, God’s gift of the house was a sign that the Community was God’s work, with all its poverties. When we began the process of buying the house, we set up a simple accounting system, the first visualization of a common fund. It was the choice to live together and the circumstances that created the common fund. What was evident in the Acts of the Apostles and what we wanted to live « All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of the possessions was their own » (Acts 4:32), seemed obvious for our community life. In the end, the common fund was born, not out of an idea, but out of a call and a practical necessity.

Pierre Laslandes and Jacques Monfort, rue Henri IV, 1981

FOI : Choosing a single fund undoubtedly implies other choices

P.L. : Yes, in this practical life, certain points gradually came to the fore, such as transparency. For ourselves first of all, making our accounts, but also for others: being able to give an account of what we were experiencing. Being clear to ourselves and to others was a choice. The « yellow sheet » was a very simple way of giving an account of our relationship with money (when you don’t earn much, you’re careful, you discern what’s essential). Giving an account to our brothers and sisters of our resources and expenses, whatever our status as a life or neighbourhood fraternity, was also a choice. It has been a time of grace for me over the last twenty years, to be able to meet single people and families, to welcome the demand for transparency with the flexibility to take ourselves where we are are on this journey to simplify our lives.

Learning to live according to one’s true needs is an asceticism whose fruits are joyful freedom, flexibility and greater confidence in the Lord’s care for each person. We rarely go wrong by refusing to « do everything at once ». Postponing needs often leads to greater wisdom. In any case, it is good that it is possible, in the Community, for brothers and sisters called to live radical poverty to be able to do so. Many (married or single) have gone before us in this desire for Christ to be our only wealth. Our path towards an ecological approach is a choice of poverty. Laurent has often said that poverty is the bulwark of the Community. Fidelity to the first choices is a foundation for growth and a free future. Our security does not lie in what we have, but in the richness of our fraternity because of Christ. To understand the first beatitude only in terms of « not having » leads us to miss what is essential. Pope Francis invites us to choose a life free from worldly contingencies. To be free in order to be offered.

FOI : This path of transparency required a path of discernment.

P.L. : Discernment consists in asking myself: « What do I really need? This applied not only to material matters, but also to discernment in my professional life: « What am I doing? », Saint Bernard asked himself every day. In the Community, everyone works. In 1984, the importance of being able to hand over one’s work to the Community in order to be sent on mission was stressed. To be free with regard to the object of my work by handing over my activity to fraternal discernment.

The joint fund allows us to live in dependence on and trust in each other. Whether in the Congo, Chad, Brazil, Mauritius or Madagascar, we receive more joy and humanity than we bring. Joining the poorest of the poor reveals another kind of richness. Realising that what we spend here has an impact on sharing elsewhere can strengthen us in our freedom to share what we have, to express our desire to share what we are.

This dependence manifests itself even more visibly in all those who want to live the mission with the Community. We can give thanks to the Lord for Communion, for those brothers and sisters who commit themselves to sharing. We can also constantly give thanks for all those who are like « God’s canvas »: all those who, not being members of the Community, have made it possible, by their gifts, their availability, their know-how, their discernment, their prayer…, for the Community to be as it is today. Receiving others as gifts from the Lord that are offered to us. There are countless examples. None of the houses we are in were acquired by our own means.

FOI : How do you see simplifying your life today?

P.L. : I liked the very simple rule mentioned at the Chapter and shared during these four days of community time at the Abbaye des Dombes, that of « slowing down the rhythm », in other words taking the time to let ourselves be unified in order to wait for the Lord’s response. In choosing this common fund and simplifying my life, I also discovered the importance of habits. They’re not bad! Nothing is more habitual than our heartbeat… If our heart doesn’t beat as normal, we worry. The word « habit » can sometimes be unpleasant when it no longer fits in with what it means: a habit that is no longer inhabited is like an empty shell. But when the habit is inhabited, what peace, what joy… The Eucharist, if it is not inhabited by what it means, looks like a routine. When it is inhabited, it is a real joy.

Sharing strengthens our communion. The Community’s chapters have always confirmed this choice of a common fund. Adaptations are necessary as we grow. The permanence of the common fund is only possible if everyone chooses to live the simplification of life in the spirit of a school of freedom. If poverty is a scandal in our world because it is a refusal to share, it is a consolation when it is chosen, in communion with God and others. The Lord and our brothers and sisters are our only riches. ■ Interview by P. Paté

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI

CHEMIN NEUF CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY

september-october-november 2023

Autre   Vie de la Communauté  

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