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I recently got an e-mail from a young person that got me to thinking. It turned out to be a Big Question from KC:

Everyone In My Family Except For My Dad Is A Catholic. My Dad Is A Buddhist. Does That Mean That I Can Only Believe In Jesus Christ Or Can I Believe In Both Religions?

Several years ago I was taking a course to become a Spiritual Director and was fortunate to have an instructor, Fr. Thomas Ryan, who is in charge of the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Okay that is a big title but it means that Fr. Ryan is an expert in all sorts of different faiths.

I remember him answering a similar question and I thought his ideas made a lot of sense.

Basically he told each of use to learn as much about our own faith as we could. He said this is like drilling a water well. He encouraged us to drill our own well – in our case KC this is being Christian and Catholic – and drill this well very deep.

As Christians we believe that Jesus is God and that He came to live with us here on earth, died for our sins and rose on the third day. We need to follow his example, especially how he taught us to love ourselves and others especially the poor, the sick, the stranger and the prisoner (Read Matthew 25) and as Catholics we have all that the Church teaches us.

Once we have drilled our own well really deep, we can then learn from the other faiths. We can drill any number of shallow wells exploring other faiths and learn from each experience because our main well is very deep.  For example, some of our Jewish brothers and sisters keep the Sabbath (their  Holy Day) sacred. We could learn from them and stop one day a week to thank God for all his gifts. Practicing Muslims stop at least  5 times a day to pray – we can learn from them and take time from our busy schedule to remember God.

And KC there is much to learn from those that practice Buddhism like your father.  In the quote below Pope John Paul II sums up how we Christians can learn compassion and loving kindness and a yearning for peace, prosperity and harmony for all beings from the Buddhist community.

In 1987, during his visit to the United States, Pope John Paul II sounded [this] theme: “To the Buddhist community, which reflects numerous Asian traditions as well as American, I wish respectfully to acknowledge your way of life, based upon compassion and loving kindness and upon a yearning for peace, prosperity and harmony for all beings. May all of us give witness to compassion and loving kindness in promoting the true good of humanity.”

Therefore KC we ‘believe in Jesus’ and we Christians must get to know as much as we can about what it means to be a follower of Christ. We can also learn much from other faiths, like Buddhism, about how we can live better lives and in the process become better Christians.

Hope that helps-click on the links below to read two fascinating articles by Fr. Ryan and to visit his website. Take care and let me know what you think.

Paulist Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Office Website

What Does It Mean Today To Be Ecumenical?

Buddhist – Catholic Dialogue

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