Pope Benedict showed special interest in these small communities in his "Ratzinger Report," and even in his earliest writing "The Theology of History according to St. Bonaventure," his thesis when he was just a young priest. As newly-elected Pope, he mentioned about "a small Church" and after doing so, caricatures portraying him carrying a small "St. Peter"s Basilica, stressed his point. He expects a very small Catholic Church! How did he get that notion when news abound that the Church, especially in Africa, is growing?
Why should a Pope be interested in these small, new communities when Rome has already discouraged the establishing of new orders, presuming that the present, existing, approved Religious Orders were doing their jobs of fulfilling the needs of the Church? Perhaps because of one special characteristic common to them: these small lay communities usually acquire a deep and complete knowledge of the teachings of Christ through infused knowledge, without books or teachers, but simply by their way of life.
In the apocalypse, it is implied that the Church was once in the world and then, personified by the Woman, was transferred to the desert. Suddenly the Church had a new ambience: the members of the Church would learn the totality of the teachings of Christ in all its depths without human teachers. They would see the face of God without the need for books, lecturers, theological and catechetical centers. They would attain knowledge of God comparable to St. Thomas of Aquinas or St. Therese of Lisieux ...simply by their way of life.
St. Therese, in fact, is a typical example. Considering the few books she has read, she could not have described Charity as well as Pope Benedict did in "Deus Caritas Est" unless her knowledge was infused, attained through her way of life at home and perfected at Carmel. In her younger years, in a Benedictine school, she amazed the Abbe who called her "my little doctor of the Church." The recent publication of the writings of St. Bernadette Soubirous shows the same infused knowledge. So did Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish convert, and Claude Newman, an illiterate Black slave who was converted and executed in prison. This is exactly like what happened at Pentecost, with the small community of apostles and disciples with Mary; and like the Apocalyptic woman with her children in the desert. Mary and the apostles were imbued with infused knowledge.
The first Christians knew this secret, and this is what drove them to the desert, like St. Antony the Hermit: to learn and worship God with full knowledge and love, foreshadowed by Israel's sojourn in the desert. It seems that Monasticism was that "small community."
Today, true monasticism, as envisioned by the Theology of Grace according to St. Paul, seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and attempts to renew it have been frustrating, just as De Rance's recent efforts to renew the Benedictines.
The first Christians knew this image from the Apocalypse. They lived according to that image of the Catholic Church in the desert. But through the centuries, the Christian world has forgotten how to live that life, and left the "Desert" for the busy cities -- the world, just as the Israelites desired to return to Egypt.
Today, a big portion of the Church have returned to Egypt. But Pope Benedict is looking for those still left in the Desert, aware perhaps that the invitation of the Woman of the Apocalypse for her children to join her there, has not ceased since Pentecost. And if this is so, then seminaries, theological and Catholic schools would be irrelevant. Only Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church would be needed for the members of that community to confirm what they already know. Because their knowledge would be infused, and there would be no danger of heresy, schism or apostasy. This would solve the present problem of learning our religion as if it were just another subject like Science.
Pope Benedict, because of his research on St. Bonaventure, knows that this "small community" is made up of unschooled children (to emphasize the supernaturalness of their infused knowledge and wisdom) who are imbued with profound knowledge of God and exceptional holiness. The existence of such communities is a thin golden chain in the history of the Church. They have always existed; and especially today, to prepare the world for the Parousia, according to the Benedictine Tradition, as noted by St. Louis de Montfort. They bear the stamp of the true Church: they are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic; and beside this, they are Contemplative and Mystical. The Apocalypse mentions that there will be members of the Church out in the world, children of the Woman, especially chosen by God to stay on and work there in order to point to all where the Church is, in the Desert.
Perhaps aware that St. Benedict had succeeded in establishing such a community, (which explains our present Holy Father's predilection for the Benedictines), could it be that Pope Benedict has an inkling where to find that small community? There, wherein is found the fullness of Benedictine Life. This should narrow down his search. ("Pentecost" by Henri and Antoine Cibille, XVII centuy.)