My wife and I, along with our adult children, traveled to Atlanta last weekend for the wedding of our eldest niece, one of three daughters of my wife’s older sister. It was a great celebration, one at which many members of my wife’s extended family were able to join us.
Not only did we spend time with each other at the wedding and reception, but 30 or 40 people, including friends and neighbors, gathered the next day for a catered brunch at the beautiful home of our brother-in-law and sister-in-law, two of most generous and gracious people you could ever meet. The night of the rehearsal dinner, some of the rest of us also came together for dinner as a family.
Having so much time together offered plenty of opportunities for conversations and other fun. We shared laughs, danced together and generally had a great weekend wishing the bride and groom well.
Not all of the time together was a rollicking affair. On the final day, I found myself engaged in a fairly serious conversation about religious faith. I don’t know about you, but this happens to me fairly frequently. As a kind of “professional Catholic,” I am used to questions about the Church, whether they involve current events in the news or matters of faith and morality.
If you asked my wife, she would probably tell you that I’m actually a little too singular in my conversation topics. Every occasion is a good one to mention some tidbit of Catholic trivia, from the names of churches or schools nearby where we happen to be that day to books or articles about the Church I happen to be reading.
The conversation I’m now writing about began innocently enough with a question about prayer meetings. I should back up to tell you that my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were born and raised Catholic, but now are members of a non-denominational Christian congregation. They are very active in their faith, and regularly participate in small group prayer meetings, hosting many in their own home.
In fact, on another occasion, I attended a Bible study meeting that my sister-in-law led in the same room where this other relative and I were standing last weekend. The woman, who is married to my wife’s cousin, asked if my wife and I had ever hosted prayer meetings like the one I was describing. I replied that we had on occasion, as part of our parish’s Lenten and Advent series for a few years running.
She had a lot of other questions about how and why, in her mind, Catholic and non-denominational Christianity were different. She was correct in some points, and less so in others. We kept talking, and I brought up one area of firm agreement, that of the belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
We talked some more about the sacramental and liturgical nature of the Catholic faith, and just what we as Catholics believe. From our conversation, it was clear that she had many other questions that couldn’t be answered in a 10- or 15-minute chat.
I’m not exactly sure about the state of her relationship with the Church, but I always take it as a good sign when people are engaged enough to make inquiries. It generally means they are searching and are open to learning more.
When we finished our talk, I hoped I had said something she needed to hear. As I thought more about it, I was thankful for the opportunity to give some witness to what I know and believe. As we mature, I think we should become more willing to share our experiences, knowledge and faith.
I will probably look to advance the conversation a little further the next time we get together, which will just happen to be on Christmas Eve. Perfect.