Below is an article that I had written for the Michaeleen, our newsletter, but there was not space for it in the issue that will come out soon. So I decided to post this article. I have gotten numerous responses to the articles on Vatican II since last fall when I started writing them. All were published in the Michaeleen as well as posted on this blog. I always welcome responses.
Affects of Vatican II Continued – Openness to People of Other Faiths
As I age, my sympathies and my loyalties become more stretched. I’ll always be a Roman Catholic, but my faith journey and my heaven now include Protestants, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and sincere searchers and struggling persons of every sort. The Eucharist is God’s banquet table, and in the end, it will manifest the universal salvific will of God who plays no favorites but embraces everyone without discrimination. To deny this is to massively reduce both the scope of Christ’s embrace and the meaning of Christian baptism. (from: Our One Great Act of Fidelity – Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist – by Ronald Rolheiser—preface – page 11)
Having received considerable feedback from the recent Michaeleen articles about how Vatican II affected me, it seems appropriate to continue in that direction.
Again pondering the question about how Vatican II affected me, I would be amiss if I did not eventually speak about ecumenism—dialoguing with people of faiths other than Catholic and aiming for greater unity.
I would have to admit that in my pre-adolescent years, basically my elementary years, I was somewhat frightened of, or certainly distanced from people of other faiths, let along dealing with the denomination itself. Perhaps one might say that at that time we were taught or even programmed to stay away from such faiths and that there might be something dangerous or unhealthy about mingling with such people. And unlike the present age, Catholic elementary schools (mine was – St. Michael’s in Albion, Nebraska), all the students were Catholic. There was no such thing as classmates or students of other faiths attending a Catholic school.
However, when Vatican II started opening windows, all of this changed and it changed quickly for me. And this change happened just as I arrived at Mount Michael, but the school was a seminary at that time – St. John’s Seminary. One of the monks, an author and a scholar, Fr. Edward Malone OSB, was already inviting ministers of other faiths to meet here at Mount Michael to dialogue, to share fellowship and to be welcoming and hospitable towards one another.
At my home parish in Albion, Nebraska, much was happening as well. Although I was only spending summers there in those days, I do recall priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha, who were reaching out and dialoguing with ministers of other denominations there in Albion. They were meeting together and discussing spiritual matters of each other faiths. Some of those priests would be: Fr. Henry Schorn, Fr. Robert Smith, Fr. Al McMahon, Fr. Dan Soltys and one of my own classmates, Fr. Ron Wasikowski.
Then when my family, my brothers and sisters, began dating and eventually marrying individuals of other faiths, it became apparent that it was not possible or healthy for that matter, to distance oneself from people of other faiths. In fact, just the opposite happened—it seemed appropriate and necessary to be open to people of other faiths. And what most often happens when one is open, is that relationships become possible and learning is also possible—learning of each others’ faith differences. Catholics, for example, could take some direction from Lutherans about being more concerned about more extensive use of and study of Scripture.
Of course, there will always be areas of belief where it is hard to find middle or common ground, but by at least by dialoguing and communicating, good relationships and respect is established.
When beginning study of monasticism and the spirituality of other religious orders, I discovered that there really could be a common or middle ground. In many religious orders, there is a group that is called the third order. It is usually made up of lay people (single or married) who desire to follow and live the spiritual charism of that particular religious order. For Benedictines that group is called: Oblates. And over the last few years that group has increased in membership in a tremendous way. Among Benedictine Oblate groups are people of all faiths, striving to follow and live Benedictine spirituality. These people have found a common place in their spiritual journeys to pray and worship together and yet they are of different faiths. The Divine Office and spiritual life, itself, become the common ground.
Among Benedictine Oblates there are now some who have become spiritual writers, even though their mother faith is not Catholic. Kathleen Norris (Presbyterian) and Ester de Waal (Anglican) would be just two that I can name off the top of my head. Both have full membership as Oblates of St. Benedict and their inclusion has created a great two way street of dialogue.
And over the years of Mount Michael Benedictine High School, we have had students who have attended our school, who are not Catholic. Of course, they all do have to follow our program of theological studies while here. But I can certainly verify that it was a pleasure to have someone like Michael Bohnhoff in my Social Justice and Peace Class in 2011. Michael’s Lutheran background gave the class a great sense of good works in the way a Christian needs to be involved in social justice as well as believing.
All things considered and truly pondering on this matter of ecumenism, Vatican II had a lot to do with where I am today in this matter. And I do appreciate Ronald Rolheiser on this matter of including people of other faiths in my heaven vision as well! I truly believe that Vatican II had something to do with why I think and believe this!