Too many times in our lives, we look at people, also situations, and see them as unfavorable. However, after more careful introspection, we say to ourselves, “It’s not as unfavorable as I thought.” In many cases, we then become more tolerant, once we know more about them or the situations.
Today I do not have to tell you that many people have a very unfavorable opinion of Muslims. With that said, I would like to comment on a personal spiritual happening.
A young Muslim and her mother approached me and said, “Francesco, we would like to visit a Christian church, would you take us to one?” I thought it was an unusual request. Why? Simply because they were very devout Muslims. I could not understand why would they want to visit a Christian church.
Nevertheless, my answer was yes. So, our journey began. When we arrived at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, before we went in, I pointed across the street to a Protestant church. I explained that they were also a Christian church, but different than St. Peter, which I explained was Roman Catholic.
When asked why, I proceeded to give a short explanation about the Protestant Reformation. And I commented, “ It’s like the Muslim faith—you have your schisms also. We all are human beings, and we sometimes like to take different paths to God.” Likewise, it was duly noted by them.
I also proclaimed that the three greatest faiths in religion are the Jewish faith, the Christian faith and the Muslim faith. We all believe in the same God. This fact unites us. It is the bedrock of those three faiths. We then proceeded to enter the cathedral.
I explained that it is the home church for the diocese and that is why it is so impressive. Also, St. Peter was built more than 100 years ago.
Upon entering, they were enamored by the beauty of the cathedral. We stopped first at the baptismal font. I discussed how it is used to bless and baptize newborns, and that we use it to bless ourselves upon entering. Their comment was that water also plays an important part in the Muslim faith. Again, another item that unites us.
A statue of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus is displayed at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie.
Our next stop was at the blessed oils. After that, we went to the statue of St. Mary holding Jesus. This really aroused their interest. Why? They honor St. Mary as well. Another item that unites us.
I then took a missal from the pew and opened it to a reading from the Old Testament, a book which they honor as well. Another item that unites us!
Also, I pointed out why we sing: It is another way of praying. I said it reminded me of when the Muslim is called to prayer; the Imam invites them by singing. Another item that unites us!
We than traversed to the altar, where they took many pictures. I pointed out to them that above the altar was a stained-glass picture of St. Mary. They took many pictures of her. It just demonstrated to me how much adoration we both have for St. Mary.
We then proceeded to the reserved Eucharist and I explained our belief that the Lord is with us. We then stopped at the angel. I asked them if they believe in angels, and yes, they do. Another item that unites us.
Our last stop was at the confessional where I explained that the purpose was for asking for forgiveness of our sins. They also confess, obviously in a different manner. Another item that unites us.
Lastly, I explained how Ramadan and Lent in some ways are very similar. We fast, they fast; we ask for forgiveness of sin, they do likewise; and we both are encouraged to perform works of mercy and charity. Another item that unites!
Upon leaving, I recommended that we visit one more church. We proceeded to St. George Church. The reason I went there was to show them how the newer churches are built. Here, they could see how the parishioners are closer to the altar and therefore more involved in the service. Lastly, I showed them where people will light candles for special intentions and pray to the saints to intercede for them.
That concluded our visits, and hopefully all parties had an appreciation of the other’s faith. Again, there are more items that unite us than tear us apart. These ties that bind us together bring us all closer to God.
As a closing note, the mother invited both my wife and I to dinner and I accepted. After a moment of silence, I said “I have a request. Now that you have visited my church, I would like to visit a mosque.” They said, “Gladly, let us do it.” I look forward to the visit.
A.M.D.G. … (For the Greater Glory of God) … Alluh Akbar … GOD is GREAT!!