Chapter 11 Living Faith Today Living Faith Today Canada Today • Many Canadians grow up in intercultural and interreligious families. • As a family, they face a great challenge and opportunity: the creative interaction of religions, beliefs, rituals, values, and traditions. • This raises many questions about – how religious people live together with respect; – how they live surrounded by others with different beliefs, rituals, and values without losing their own faith; – how living side by side with other religions is an opportunity to be enriched by each other and not a cause for division. Faith as Human • Faith plays a large part in what it means to be human. – Only 16% of the world’s population identify themselves as “non- • • • • religious.” – Half of that 16% are “theist”—they believe in God, gods, or other divine beings. Aristotle said that because humans can think, they are different from all other creatures. – We imagine, solve problems, and have emotions. – We communicate with language. – Language shapes our beliefs, values, and traditions. – We use our imaginations to create literature, art, web pages, etc. – Humans are creative and social—we need each other. St. Thomas Aquinas accepted Aristotle’s definition and identified humans as having the ability to use reason. Throughout human history, people have continued to try to define what it means to be human. As the world’s religions show, something within humans makes them search for God. Humans and Mystery • Human intelligence is constantly trying to understand the world around us. • When humans do not understand something, our curiosity prompts us to find a way to understand. • Humans face mystery in various ways: human reason, creativity, and revelation. Human Reason • One of the most powerful ways of exploring what we do not know is the scientific method. • The Catholic Church believes that humans can arrive at some knowledge of God using reason. • The study of God using only human reason is called “natural theology.” Creativity • Another way humans face mystery is through creativity. • Artists use their imaginations and express mystery in art, music, drama, literature, etc. Revelation • Many religions, including Christianity, believe that the intimate mystery of God cannot be uncovered by human reason. • Many religions present a God who is revealed to an inspired leader, a community, or in written texts such as the Tanakh, Bible, or Qur’an. • Jews, Christians, and Muslims study these sacred texts to explore God’s mystery. • Each religion represents a human response to what it believes to be a direct encounter with, or revelation of, the Ultimate Mystery. You and Interreligious Dialogue Today • Catholics have used two approaches to other religions – mission and dialogue. – The mission approach was to proclaim the Gospel to other nations and peoples, inviting them to worship the God revealed by Jesus. – Catholics also entered into dialogue with other religions to search for truth together, to discover the faith of others, and to find traces of God’s Holy Spirit in that faith. • In his parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus reached out to those who were not his disciples. • He was ready to lay down his life for all so that there would be “one flock” and “one shepherd” for humanity. • This unity of humanity is the challenge of the Catholic faith in the 21st century. The Necessity of Dialogue • Catholics need to be involved in dialogue in order to prevent misunderstanding, mistrust, division, violence, or even war. • In a multicultural society such as Canada, Catholics must interact respectfully and vigorously with people of all faiths and cultures. Types of Dialogue • The four types of interreligious dialogue are: 1) The dialogue of theological exchange 2) The dialogue of religious experience 3) The dialogue of everyday life 4) The dialogue of action Dialogue: Some Guidelines • For interreligious dialogue to be honest, it must be rooted in – a deep knowledge and love for one’s own religion and faith, and – a deep respect for the faith and beliefs of others. • When Catholics enter into dialogue they – share the richness and questions of their own faith, – listen with respect to the other religion and arrive at a deeper understanding, and – gain a deeper appreciation and enrichment of their own faith. • All religions offer our modern world the experience of community and tradition, guidance and ritual, and justice and service. You and the Dialogue of Theological Exchange • The dialogue of theological exchange usually takes place between scholars from different religions. • They study their own religion for many years before becoming part of such a dialogue. • They must be open to examining difficult issues with respect and understanding. • Three Catholic principles apply to the dialogue of theological exchange. – Participants are to be grounded in and faithful to their own beliefs. – Participants are to be open to the truth and willing to acknowledge the prophet voice within other religions and how their own faith fails to follow the teaching of Jesus. – It is the hope that a new humanity, united before God, will emerge out of dialogue. You and the Dialogue of Religious Experience What Is a Religious Experience? • The dialogue of religious experience is a discussion between members of • • • • • different religions about their experiences of faith. Religious experiences are different things to different people. Some examples: – a short, intense experience of deep underlying unity of all things – the joy of knowing that you are loved unconditionally – the desire to live in difficult circumstances to help others Religious experiences may come early in life, late, or not at all. For some, these experiences are found in a monastery, chapel, or church. Some experiences are not clearly religious and can take place anywhere: on the way to school, in the beauty of nature, when someone we love dies, etc. These experiences are often called mystical experiences and are a central feature of all religious traditions. Mysticism • “Mysticism” refers to the experience of the Ultimate Reality or Supreme Being, and seeking communion with it/him/her. • It touches most people at least once in their lives. • It teaches us that God, or the Divine Reality, is to be experienced and is more than a concept to be debated and read about. Love • One way to understand this idea is by looking at love. • We can talk about what love is, see many examples of it, and read about it. • But none of these can measure up to our direct experience of love in our lives. • When we love someone, what we experience often cannot be put into words. The Divine • A mystical experience is a direct experience of the divine. • A mystic is a person who seeks or experiences a direct connection with the divine. The Experience of Mysticism • Because mysticism is common to all religions, it is an important area of interreligious dialogue. • By listening to the voice of the Spirit in other religions, Catholics gain insight into the Catholic experience of God in Christ. • Across Canada, groups from different religions gather to listen to each other’s spiritual experiences. Dialogues of Theological Exchange and Religious Experience Dialogue of Theological Exchange: Father Bede • Born Alan R. Griffiths in 1906 in England, he studied at Oxford University. • He was disillusioned by the excesses of modern life in the West and decided • • • • • • • • to live a simple life. After reading Cardinal John Henry Newman’s writings, Griffin was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1931. He became a Benedictine novice and took the name “Bede.” In 1940 he was ordained a priest, and in 1955 he went to India to study and dialogue with Hinduism. He enriched his Christian life by incorporating his experience of Hinduism’s earliest philosophy, the Vedanta. He wrote 12 books on Hindu–Christian dialogue. Bede Griffiths died as a Catholic monk in 1993 at an ashram in India. He lived the “loss of self” by striving to be a sanyasi—someone who gives up everything to stop seeing himself or herself at the centre of everything. He believed that only when we let go of the self-centred self can we open ourselves to our true centre: God. Dialogue of Religious Experience: Sister Elaine MacInnes • Sister Elaine MacInnes was born in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1924. • In her mid-30s, she became a member of Our Lady’s Missionaries—an order • • • • • • • • • of Roman Catholic nuns founded in Canada in 1949. In 1961, her order sent her to Japan to start a Catholic Cultural Centre. In Japan, she was accepted as a disciple of Yamada Koun Roshi, one of the greatest Zen teachers of the 20th century. Zen is a type of Buddhist meditation that is transmitted from one living master (a roshi, meaning “old teacher”) to students. In 1980, Yamada Roshi granted the title of roshi to Sister Elaine. After 17 years in Japan, she was sent to the Philippines to work in a poor rural community. There, she had the idea of teaching Zen meditation to activists who were jailed during the repressive government of Ferdinand Marcos (1965–1986). Sister Elaine incorporated Zen practice within her own Catholic faith and found the practice of Zen meditation helped her as a Catholic. Sister Elaine is the leader of the Toronto-based charity Freeing the Human Spirit. Their volunteer teachers bring meditation and yoga to people in prison. You and the Dialogue of Everyday Life • Living in a society where our friends, neighbours, and loved ones may come • • • • • • from different cultural or religious backgrounds presents challenges and opportunities. The dialogue of everyday life is based on the day-to-day interaction of people of different religions. It takes place in schools, in the community, at work, and through TV, radio, newspapers, and the Internet. Large cities have neighbourhoods with restaurants, shops, and services of diverse cultures. These ways of interacting offer a great opportunity to engage in the dialogue of everyday life. The bonds of trust and understanding that are built through everyday interactions can make interreligious dialogues possible. One of the more intense types of dialogue of everyday life takes place in marriages between members of different faiths or cultures. “Doing” Dialogue Cautions 1. False comparisons and contrasts: we can easily fall into making false comparisons and contrasts. • We can compare the best of one faith with the worst of another faith. • We risk under-appreciating our own faith tradition and glorifying another’s. • Comparing faith traditions in both their positive and their negative expressions gives us an honest picture. 2. Religious relativism: because religions are so varied, we may think committing ourselves to any one religion is impossible. • We risk judging religions by what we like in other faiths and our own, and setting aside what we do not like. • We set ourselves up as the judges of what is truth. • For Catholics, there is only one truth: Jesus. • When we enter into dialogue with other religions with a solid commitment to our own faith tradition, the dialogue can be much more fruitful. Opportunities • Interreligious dialogue lets us search for truth as a constant in all religions. • We can deepen our appreciation of our own tradition as we see it reflected in • • • • • other faith traditions. Multicultural society challenges us to meet differences with respectful curiosity, not fear. Our curiosity in interreligious dialogue can lead us to a deeper understanding of how we and others view the world. We can also find many points of similarity among religions and beliefs when we engage in honest and respectful dialogue Our modern society provides many opportunities for us to learn about the cultures and religions of the people we live with. We must find out how we can interact and respond in a way that brings the best of our traditions together, and challenges our assumptions about other people’s beliefs. Dialogue of Everyday Life: The Monks of Tibhirine • In March 1996, seven Trappist monks from the Notre Dame de l’Atlas • • • • • • • • monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria, were killed by a violent group that claimed to be speaking for Islam. The Trappists had been in Algeria since 1934. The Muslims respected them for their life of ‘poverty for the sake of God,’ because Muslims know the need to do God’s will. By 1990, Algeria had descended into a spiral of violence; several nuns and priests had been killed. The monks could have moved away, but they stayed to be a Christian presence in a Muslim country. The monks felt that only by being disarmed would they be able to meet Islam and discover a part of Christ in Muslims. At the monks’ burial, the local Muslims and imams from the area came to say goodbye. The monks had learned to live together and interact with the local Muslims, and developed mutual respect. The monastery has been left untouched, and the local people guard it. You and the Dialogue of Action • The dialogue of action takes place when people of different religions respond together to address a need or a situation of injustice, such as helping poor or unemployed people. • All religions have teachings that deal with social justice. • In recent years, religions have worked together to further social justice. • For example: 1. The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Commission in Canada tries to reduce poverty and make housing available to people with lower incomes. 2. Asian bishops who live in countries where Catholics are a minority have urged the Church to enter interreligious dialogue. – During the Second Vatican Council, they were instrumental in bringing about The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. – They knew that, to understand the Gospel, one must listen to and act with the victims of injustice, learn from their spiritualities and cultures that have nurtured their peoples for so long, and talk with one another about religion. Pope Benedict XVI • During Mass when he was installed as pope in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the role of the Catholic religion in the world. • He said there are many kinds of deserts—of poverty, hunger, loneliness, and the desert of God’s darkness. • The Church, like Christ, must try to lead people out of these deserts. • He expressed that the Church must respond to the injustices of our world. A Call to Action • In a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps in 2003, Pope John Paul II raised a number of issues that could be starting points for a dialogue of action in a multi-religious world: 1) acts of terrorism that can strike at any time and anywhere, 2) the turmoil caused by war, oppression and violence, 3) new deadly diseases, and 4) the irresponsible use of the Earth’s resources. A Call to Action (cont’d) • The Pope suggested some action points: 1. Respect for the rule of law—laws are necessary to guarantee the security and freedom of individual citizens and of nations; it is important to respect them. 2. Change—everyone can develop within him or herself the potential for faith, honesty, respect for others, and commitment to the service of others. 3. Say “yes” to life!—respect life itself; the most fundamental human right is the right to life. 4. Be in solidarity with others—humans have to learn to talk with one another and to listen to one another; all humans are our brothers and sisters. 5. Think of others before yourself—all peoples are entitled to a fair share of the good of this world and of the know-how of the more advanced countries; for instance, generic medicine should be made available for people in Africa with HIV/AIDS. 6. Say “no” to war and violence—war is not always inevitable and it is always a defeat for humanity; always search for international law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, and diplomacy to resolve differences. Dialogue of Action: Sister Susan Moran • Susan Moran is the founder of the Out of the Cold program. • Her inspiration came from students of St. Michael’s College High School in • • • • • • • Toronto, where she was chaplain. Students there had befriended a homeless man named George, who regularly slept on the grass in front of the school. Sister Susan saw George and talked briefly with him. That was the only time she spoke to him because he died in hospital after being badly beaten in a fight. The students wanted to do something to help fight homelessness. Sister Susan contacted churches and faith groups in Toronto and asked them to help by opening the doors of their churches and synagogues to the homeless one day a week to provide food and hospitality. Volunteers acting together and faith groups combining their efforts made a difference. By 2009, Out of the Cold had spread to 19 faith groups in Toronto and had chapters in other Canadian cities. Conclusion • At the end of this course, we ask again the questions we started with: – How can Catholics can relate to other religions? – What have Catholics learned from Jesus and their faith about this • • • • • • question? Catholics have learned they must not be neutral to others. As Christians, they must care for all people. Based on the experience of how deeply God cares for humanity, Catholics are convinced their experience of God in Jesus Christ is meant to be shared with others. Part of their faith is a call to mission. What God revealed in Jesus Christ must be brought to the nations as an outflow of love and hope for peace among people. The Second Vatican Council described Catholicism’s relationship to other religions in this way: the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.