Living together as children of God

November 13, 2012

Imagine God looking down upon humankind — the divine heart bursting with joy as He beholds people of all faiths reflecting his divine image around a table of shared hospitality and good will. This scenario resounds Jesus’ call to be children of the heavenly Father by loving all (Mt. 5:45) and St. Paul’s affirmation that “no partiality exists with God” (Romans 2:11). Our Catholic faith possesses an established tradition, called interreligious dialogue, a collaborative process of engagement among persons of various faiths. It is one of the essential tasks of Christian discipleship. The Second Vatican Council in the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, addressed the Christian’s relationship with non-Christians followed by Nostra Aetate and Ad Gentes which provided the practical and pastoral guidance to establish essential dialogue (Morali, 2005). 

The theologian, Ilaria Morali (2005), wrote that, “Dialogue is a motion that comes from the Christian’s conscience and stems from the desire to communicate the unexpectedly received gift in Christ: the gift of having been constituted children of God.” Pope Paul VI understood that reflection on dialogue must be preceded by reflection on the conscience of the Church. The faithful are called to an awareness of their vocation received at baptism - to remember one’s own identity that dignity is acquired by grace. Out of this self-knowledge the Church is called to participate in God’s own dialogue, inspired by charity, with all of humanity. Such dialogue between a Catholic and a non-Christian does not intend to blur or relativize each one’s identity especially the Christian’s unique value of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ. Morali states that such dialogue is “built in personal contact, in a climate of friendliness and congeniality, not in an oceanic meeting.” 

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo has been instrumental in his efforts to dialogue with leaders of other faiths to address local and international issues. A recent example of this has been their work to advocate for just wages for janitors. Interfaith Ministries for the Greater Houston Area is another community organization with a strong commitment to strengthening interfaith relations. Its Interfaith Relations Department works to foster understanding, respect and engagement among all people of faiths. One of their recent initiatives to address shared beliefs involves the development of a high school youth leadership council representing youth from various faiths, called iLead Youth Group. Hilario Lumbrera, a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, shared his involvement in this organization:

Ciesielski: What is your personal interest in wanting to be part of the Interfaith Youth Council?
Hilario: The iLead Program encourages each of us to proudly support and represent our faith as well as maintaining an atmosphere that allows us to understand other faith traditions on a new level. I wanted to see for myself where we make our differences so I can understand how the Catholic Church interacts with our community in Houston and around the world.

Ciesielski: What, as a Catholic, do you see bringing to the Interfaith Youth Council?
Hilario: As a Catholic, I hope that I am representing our faith as a religion with an extraordinary history with amazing and diverse people. I hope that I am showing the love that our heavenly Father has taught us and allowing the Holy Spirit to deepen my understanding of other religions as well as my own.

Ciesielski: How is your involvement in the Interfaith Youth Council making an impact on your faith as a Catholic?
Hilario: Since joining the program, I have learned how unique Catholicism is compared to every other religion, and how every religion remains great in its own individual way. I believe that I am gaining a new appreciation for all of the traditions I have taken for granted throughout the years. 

Ciesielski: What is the Interfaith Youth Council doing to impact the Houston community’s understanding of living together as persons of different faiths? 
Hilario: The teen representatives and I hope that we are breaking through the barriers we have set up throughout our lives, documenting these moments, and making them available through our YouTube Channel. Every month we are assigned a new task that includes the role of religion in everyday society. We have to work independently or with each other to compose a video that answers the prompt and gives insight to our religious beliefs as well as our own. We hope we are showing that religions can unite without conflict and are providing an example to show people what we can achieve when we come together as a community.

Ciesielski: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Archdiocese about your experience in the Interfaith Youth Council?
Hilario: From the first assignment, our mindsets have begun to transform, once we realized all of the similar aspects of each religion and how little our differences separate us. We can only imagine differences we can make as a community when we focus on the many things that we agree on, continuing to disagree, but being able to “listen, understand, and respect.”

Mark Ciesielski is an Associate Director in the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.