Profiles in Catholicism
 
An Interview with Father Thomas Ryan, C.S.P.

by Gordon Nary
 
Return to Main Page



 

 


Gordon:



 
  You and Father John Pawlikowski, OSM were the two Roman Catholic representatives that signed the Religions for Peace USA  Statement Regarding Recent Terrorist Attack and Upsurge in Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Muslim Rhetoric on December 12, 2015. However, there has been a considerable increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant prejudice expressed by some business and political leaders since the statement.

In your opinion, what could Catholic parishes and Catholics in general do to combat this expression of fear and prejudice?
     
Father Tom:







 
  There’s now an annual World Interfaith Harmony Week in our global calendar. It was originally proposed at the UN General Assembly in 2010, and unanimously adopted for the first week in February (1-7) every year. The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which  started in 2000, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments: Love of God, and Love of Neighbor. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam--and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.  

At the end of the day, faith should lead one to do good to others. As the saying goes: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ What better way is there to show the positive force of faith than by joining together to do good to one's neighbors. This can take many expressions, such as activities like these: a community cleanup of a river or park; feeding the homeless; blood-donation drives; health fairs; planting of a community garden; fixing of a run-down playground; painting and sprucing up community centers; painting an interfaith mural, spending some time in prayer together (see my book Interreligious Prayer:  A Christian Guide).

     
Gordon:   We have seen a serious rise in anti-Muslim incidents and warnings in 2017. What, in your opinion, may be contributing to these challenges?
     
Father Tom:






 
 

Well, the executive order against refugees from seven largely-Muslim countries has certainly “stirred the pot” of xenophobia and religious prejudice. The United States has historically been a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and persecution, but at shameful moments in our national history, prejudice, fear and ignorance have led our country to abandon that role.   Refugees are being portrayed as enemies, rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We are being told to see Muslim men and women and children as sources of fear rather than as children of God.

One study recently indicated that since the 9/11 World Trade Tower attack, a total of only nine people--from all seven of the countries implicated in this executive order-- have been convicted of any act of violence in the United States. By contrast, over the last five years, the average annual gun death toll on the part of those who were born and live here is 33,000. There are more gun stores in the U.S. than McDonalds and Starbucks locations combined. Would you say our fear is being misdirected?

     
Gordon:  

Do you believe that there are any co-factors in the anti Muslim incidents and the increase in Antisemitism? 

     
Father Tom:









 
 

Yes, several.  At different times in European history, rising nationalism fed anti-Semitism. A clear example of this was Hitler’s era. Anti-Semitism has certainly not disappeared in the world. The emphasis in our current political context of “making America first” may be feeding a kind of nationalism here. Another identifiable co-factor is racism. Americans have a racist gene. It’s not just Islamophobia; there’s a deep racist element there toward, for example, Africans as well. It’s a social cancer. Yet another co-factor is fear. The gun lobby actively cultivates this among Americans in general with its counsel to everyone to have a gun so you can “shoot first” before you’re shot. And a fourth co-factor is anger. Anger often comes out of fear, and fear can generate ugliness. That’s what we’re seeing in damaged mosques, desecrated Jewish cemeteries and the scrawling of swastikas on synagogues.  

And on the other side of the coin, a significant co-factor is that we must pledge ourselves to stand in solidarity with one another if any faith faces discrimination. In the wake of recent anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic events, we have had an inspiring example of this positive co-factor in how Jews have worked to fund rebuilding a damaged mosque, and Muslims have worked to restore and protect vandalized Jewish cemeteries. Our values demand us to act—from love, and not from fear. Religious communities are guided by values that cross borders and boundaries. We are the original community builders in the human family. Religious communities are a force for the social good that far outscales the resources and longevity of any government. More than ever, we need to work together and develop strategies, tactics, purpose and vision  that advocate for the protection of religious minorities, the environment, refugees, and immigrants.

     
Gordon:   Could you comment on the Vatican's leadership on addressing anti-Muslim attitudes in the Second Vatican Council's Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium?
     
Father Tom:












 
  In the Declaration on the Relation of the Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), a basis was provided for interreligious relations in the oneness of the human family, the common search for God, and the Gospel values to preserve and foster what is true and good in other religions. With regard  to Muslims in particular, the Declaration exhorted cooperation  and respect, “social justice, moral values, as well as peace and freedom for all people (NA 3)” despite the history of hostilities. It also noted that Muslims worship the God of Abraham in prayer, almsgiving and fasting; that they venerate Jesus as a prophet  and honor his virgin mother Mary; and that they await the day of judgment when God will bring all back to life. “The Church looks  upon Muslims with respect” says the Declaration, and it “rejects nothing of what is true and holy” in this religion. And so it counsels us to engage in dialogue and collaboration with Muslims as well as members of other religions, and “to acknowledge preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral good, as well as the socio-cultural values
found among them “(2).

The sentence in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) that makes our dialogue with Muslims so much richer and promising today is The plan of salvation also embraces those who acknowledge the Creator, and among these the Muslims are first; they profess to hold the faith of Abraham and along with us they worship the one merciful God who will judge humanity   on the last day” (LG 16).

Pope Francis has used dramatic words and gestures to show his desire for closer relations with the Islamic world. He has said that authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence, and invited both Muslim and Jewish leaders to gather in the Vatican gardens and pray for peace. And we all remember the photo of his washing the feet of two Muslims during a Holy Thursday liturgy at a juvenile detention center in Rome just a few weeks after becoming pope.

     
Gordon:   Please explain to our readers the difference between the jihadists and the true followers of Islam.
     
Father Tom:




























 
  Jihad is an inclusive word with two meanings. Its primary meaning is inner striving for self-control and betterment. Its secondary meaning  is armed battle to protect the faith against others. This latter meaning involves use of legal, diplomatic, economic, political, as well as military means, but innocents--such as women, children, invalids--must never be harmed. This secondary concept of jihad has been hijacked and mis-applied by Islamist extremists to justify various forms of violence.  Violent Islamist extremists have unfortunately taken over the word’s secondary meaning in the minds of most people. Such extremists,  however, are the exception  in an otherwise peaceful religion. While it is true that the Quran has passages advocating violence against sinners and nonbelievers, so does the Bible. In fact, every religion throughout history has suffered the effects of extremists who distort   and corrupt the core values of their traditions. One need only take a brief glance backwards at the 12th c. Crusades or the 16th c Post-Protestant Reformation Inquisition to remember that Muslims are not the only people capable of committing atrocities in the name  of religion. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that the vast majority of Christians never participated in those atrocities, nor do those conflicts in any way represent what they hold to be the life-giving facets of their religious traditions. Similarly, the vast majority of Muslims today hold no part with the actions of ISIS.      

The vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are peaceful and tolerant. So judging Islam on the actions of a tiny, violent minority is  both wrong and offensive. Lumping all Muslims together is like claiming that the opinions of the most conservative areas of the U.S. are representative of the whole nation. That’s not to deny that in the Middle East there are blood-thirsty extremists who are gleefully beheading  hundreds of nonbelievers and terrorizing whole nations, or that individual extremists are popping up in Western world countries. But as we noted,  Christianity has also been through similar periods of intolerance and bloodshed in the past. After a long period of painful self-examination,  it ultimately left behind its anti-Semitism and its contempt for other faiths. What we tend to forget is that religion is often embedded in culture We are generally not guided by religious scripture alone. Believers of all faiths interpret their texts through the lens of their own cultural,  ethnic,  nationalistic and political perspectives. The struggle to reform Islam in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and other countries is as much cultural and political as it is theological. That’s why reforms are most likely to come from people who are Muslims themselves.

As important as it is for Christians to learn about Islam in general, it is even more important for us to come to personally know individual Muslims. Pastors and social workers might work with their congregations to build relationships with local Mosques and Islamic Centers. Individuals can been couraged to look for opportunities to become better acquainted with their Muslim neighbors and co-workers. Personal encounter humanizes the other who has to some extent been stereotyped in our minds by media impressions. Terrorism exists wherever religious ideology—be it Christian Jewish, or Islamic—succeeds in denying humanity to one’s opponents. Whenever and wherever religion becomes ideology, we can be certain that  it will be used in the pursuit of cruel and inhuman projects.

A few years ago I attended the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America at the Rosemont Convention Center in Chicago. There  wre over 30,000 Muslim participants. The weekend afforded me the opportunity to listen to Muslims talk with one another about things that are  on their minds and converse with them over meals as well as before and after sessions. The Conference theme was Achieving Balance in Faith, Family, and Community. How normal does that sound? That theme effectively summarizes the preoccupation of believers of every stripe in North America today. In the end, what left the deepest impression was simply this: There is a community of people with a strong faith in the God of  Abraham and a strong track record in community service and charity (the city of Chicago’s foodbank that year said that the Muslim contribution was larger than any it had ever received in its history.)

In an era of secularization where faith is increasingly being air-brushed from the public square, I felt grateful for the witness of these believers and a desire to strengthen our relationships as “people of the Book”.

     
Gordon:   When and why did you become a member of Religions for Peace USA
     
Father Tom:












 
  Interreligious dialogue and collaboration are fundamental to the mission of the Catholic Church. As Swiss theologian Hans Kung once wrote,  “There can be no peace among nations without peace among religions.” Thus I made the Paulists a “member” soon after founding our North American office at the beginning of the new millennium. The Catholic commitment to interreligious collaboration isn’t an option; it’s a necessity.

There are 3 theological principles that undergird this assertion. The first is what we might call “the mystery of unity.” In other words, all humanity  has one vocation, rooted in our origins and our destiny. “Since Christ died for all human beings,” Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes tells us, “and since   all human beings are in fact called to one and he same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit—in a manner known to God   alone—offers to every person the possibility of being made partner in the paschal mystery “(22). In other words, the Council affirmed that all peoples do share a common vocation, a common destiny, even though they don’t necessarily share it in he same way. God has one single plan  of salvation, a plan in which all human persons are invited to participate.

The second theological principle is the universal action of God’s Spirit in the world. One of Pope John Paul II’s particular contributions was to further develop in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio the active presence of God’s Spirit in the religious traditions of other peoples. God’s Spirit  is at work in the world before, during, and after the life of Jesus.  And the Spirit’s universal work affects “not only individuals but also society and  history, peoples, cultures, and religions” (28). And the third principle flows from this: the universality of God’s reign. 

If that’s the picture, then it makes complete sense that all religions join hands to work together for peace in our world.

     
Gordon:   Could you provide our readers with some background on why and how Understanding Islam: Guide for Catholic Educators was created?
     
Father Tom:









 
  There are three regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues in the U.S.—Mid-Atlantic, Midwest; and West Coast. All are supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The Mid-Atlantic dialogue, on which I’ve served since 2002, took on the task in 2008 of developing an educational  resource—a profile of Catholics and a profile of Muslims—that could be used by teachers in educational   settings. The sense was that some of the perspectives Muslim teachers present to Muslim students about Catholics would not be acceptable to Catholics, and vice versa. We wanted to provide a new resource or profile of one another that would be mutually acceptable.

There are about 10 Catholics and 10 Muslim participants in the dialogue, and there is just one meeting a year of about two days. Now you might think that the Catholics would simply have drawn up a profile of themselves to give to Muslims for their use, and vice versa. But actually, we did  just the opposite: the Catholics took on creating a profile of Muslims, and the Muslims were charged with creating a profile of Catholics. That made for genuine research and dialogue, because it required the participants on each side to share among themselves their perceptions and experience of the “other”, and then present that to each other for feedback in our sessions. Then we would go back to the drawing board to make revisions based on the other’s feedback of our perceptions of them and/or our understanding of their religion. So, as you might guess, his process was a challenging one and prolonged the task, but the Guide for Catholic Educators about Islam eventually emerged as the fruit of our  efforts on the Catholic side to present an understanding of Islam grounded in reality. 

     
Gordon:  

What are some of the plans for the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in 2017?

     
Gordon:

 
  The Paulists have been a leader in Communications which is at the core of your mission. Most of our readers are aware of the Paulist Press, but the Paulists also have pioneered the use of video and podcasts in their communications.  I am a big fan of Busted Halo. Communications technology is a rapidly changing field.  Are their any other communications technologies that that Paulists  may be considering using in the future? 
     
Father Tom:



 
  Well, you didn’t mention Paulist-Productions, our film-making company in Hollywood, CA  which has produced some memorable big-screen films like Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story; Romero , the bishop of El Salvador who was martyred; as well as some TV movies like The Lost Valentine It has won many awards for its films and television shows, including five Emmy Awards, the Humanitas Award, the Christopher Award and five Gabriel Awards.   And as for Busted Halo, in terms of new communications technologies, SiriusXM does broadcast The Busted Halo show on satellite radio, as well as stream  it on-demand to their mobile app.  Additionally, Busted Halo keeps up with all the current social media including Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, and periscope.     
     
Gordon:
 
  You are a prolific writer with 15 books to your credit and over 250 articles in a wide variety of periodicals and journals. Did you formally study writing or what has prompted you to become a writer? 
     
Father Tom:


 
  I had a double major in college of English Literature and Philosophy, and I would have to say those courses fertilized the seeds that had already been planted in high school English classes. Writing, both prose and poetry, seemed to come from within as a natural inclination. One of the expressions that takes for me on a regular basis is keeping a journal.  Trying to give concrete expression to abstract thoughts has over the years become a near-daily exercise. A few of its benefits are that it requires reflection, cultivates conscious decision-making, keeps memory active, provides me on my annual retreat with a helpful perspective of the year past, and cultivates gratitude, the heart of prayer.
     
Gordon:
 
  Your interest in spirituality, meditation, and yoga is remarkable. What initially interested you in exploring the multiple dimensions of spirituality especially from an eastern perspective?
     
Father Tom:























 
  After engaging full time in the work for Christian unity over ten years at the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal and working in all 10 provinces of Canada, it was becoming apparent to me that there was a rising tide of religious pluralism in North America and that I needed to become more conversant, not just about  other traditions of Christian faith, but about other world religions. So after the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Canberra, Australia in 1991, I took a three month sabbatical in India to have a more direct experience of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. I spent my first month at the Christian ashram of Shantivanam directed by Benedictine Fr. Bede Griffiths, a pioneer in interreligious dialogue.

At this ashram, there was a daily session of yoga, followed by quiet sitting in meditation. I had already been practicing Christian meditation/Centering Prayer for about 17 years, and within the first few sessions of yoga at the ashram, when it came time to sit in quiet meditation, I could feel a palpable difference in both my body and mind. I was able to sit more comfortably, and my mind was quieter and more focused. What’s going on here, I wondered? And when I learned that hatha yoga—movements and postures with a focused mind—were originally designed to help people meditate better, I was motivated to learn more about yoga. Two of the greatest challenges for any meditator are the restless mind in the fidgety body! And here was a practice the objective of which was formally defined in the tradition as “calming the thought waves  of the mind.” And it did!

Another factor that inclined me to engage with the physical postures and breathing exercises of hatha yoga is our own Christian incarnational theology. We have the highest theology of the body among all the religions of the world. That said, we also have one of the lowest levels of actually attributing to our bodies any significant role in our spiritual lives. We need some help here! There’s no other religion in the world that claims God chose to become one of us, and did so in an actual, historical person (Jesus), choosing to call these embodied spirits of ours “home”. The few practices we have that attributed a role to our bodies in our spiritual practice—like a weekly fast day and keeping a day a week for rest and renewal on the Sabbath—have by and large both fallen off our screens in this era. Yoga is just one way to remind us that our bodies have an important role to play in our spiritual lives, and if they’ve been “sitting on the bench,” we need to bring them onto the playing field.

When I came back from India and saw how yoga was going mainstream in North American culture, I thought to myself, “Hmmm. Given the majoritarily Christian makeup of the U.S. and Canada, a good number if not the majority of those engaging in this practice here must be of Christian background. Who’s helping them to engage with this practice in a way that’s coherent with their Christian faith?” Seeing that there were few if any, I decided to deepen my own study and become an instructor, eventually writing the book Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice and the DVD Yoga Prayer. I also offered a retreat for Christian teachers of yoga to help them “connect the dots” between this embodied practice and their own incarnational faith, and make them more aware of the deep roots of contemplative prayer (referred to here as meditation) in the Christian tradition, going back to the teachings of the desert fathers, St. John Cassian’s Institutes and Conferences (5th c) through The Cloud of Unknowing (14th c) and the teachings of Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila (16th c) . They asked if a retreat like this might be offered every other year, which we’ve done, and out of those retreats has grown a website now accessed around the world because of its helpful resources as well as a book Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality.

     
Gordon:   I know that some Christians—clergy and lay—do not consider Yoga as a helpful spiritual exercise. What may they fail to see in the practice?
     
Father Tom:
























 
  There is a lot of misunderstanding of yoga out there. The primary one is that yoga is a religion. The consequence of having that framework for it is that if you’re a Christian and you’re engaging with yoga, you’re practicing another religion and that’s apostasy. The fact, however, is that yoga is not a religion. It’s a philosophy, a science, a physical and a spiritual practice. But it’s not a religion. All you have to do to realize that is to look at who practices it. I know of classes for Orthodox Jews in New York City and Muslim  instructors in Washington, DC. Across the country there are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and people of no faith, who participate in it. That clearly indicates that one should think of it more like a software that you plug into the hardware of your own faith understanding and work with accordingly.

There are essentially two approaches: the classical approach to the practice or the contemporary approach. The latter is all about physical fitness, increased flexibility, strengthened muscles, etc, and meditation is not even part of the picture. Whereas in the former, the classical approach, the physical postures are about stretching and relaxing the muscles, tissues and organs with concentrative attention so as to release tension and stress from the body and focus the mind—all to prepare you for coming to rest in God’s presence more peaceably and comfortably with concentrative attention in quiet sitting meditation.  And it works! And that’s why people keep coming back to the practice. I think one of the contributions we Christians can make to the practice in our contemporary cultural context is to help restore the inherent linkage in the classical tradition between hatha yoga and meditation. And a direct benefit for us is that doing so involves recovering our own rich tradition of contemplative prayer.

Georg Feuerstein, a yoga scholar and author of The Shambhala Encyclopedia of yoga, acknowledges that yoga, it is quite true, has historically been associated with India’s three great religious-cultural traditions—Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Thus the teachings of yoga are infused with many concepts that have a Hindu, Buddhist, or Jaina flavor. That said, in response to the question of how can yoga then enrich the religious or spiritual life of a practicing Christian or Jew, Feuerstein’s response is “The answer is the same as for a practicing Hindu, Buddhist, or Jaina. Yoga aids all who practice religion, regardless of their persuasion, by balancing the nervous system and stilling the mind through its various exercises (from posture to breath control to meditation). Yoga’s heritage is comprehensive enough so that anyone can find just the right techniques that will not conflict with his or her personal beliefs…. So, practicing Christians or Jews (or practitioners of any other religious tradition), should take from yoga what makes sense to them and deepens their own faith and spiritual commitment” (Feuerstein,The Deeper Dimension of Yoga, pp. 25, 26).

And that describes well what I do.  I teach the practice in a distinctive way, linking together individual postures into posture flows that give bodily expression to the attitudes of the heart embedded in the prayers people have been praying all their lives—but generally just from the shoulders up, that is, in their heads. And what’s more is that we pray those prayers put to music, which has a wonderful capacity to engage one’s affectivity as well. The end result: praying with body, mind, heart, and spirit can open that rote prayer up in fresh and powerful ways. As the founder of the Paulist Fathers, Isaac Hecker, once said, "We must bring forth the old truths in fresh, new forms."

The "old truth" here is the enfleshment of God. We are embodied spirits who carry divine life within our bodies and we must care for them well  because they will be with us for all eternity. 

     
Gordon:   Could you comment on our near pandemic of gun violence in the United States?
     
Father Tom:


















 
  As one who has done both post-graduate studies in Europe and lived in Canada for 21 years, I have come to see gun violence as the dark side of the American character. It doesn’t reflect well on us as a people that citizens can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill with brutal speed and efficiency. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the government from adopting sensible gun regulations such as universal background checks, bans on military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, or laws prohibiting the sale of guns to violent offenders, the mentally ill, or terrorists. We pass laws requiring helmets for cyclists and seat belts for people in cars, but seem unwilling to face the fact that guns kill over 32,000 people a year here. America has by far the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with nine guns for every ten people. We also have by far the highest level of gun violence among 23 advanced nations. Muslims in the United States have sometimes expressed to me their amazement at American Christians’ high tolerance for violence in games, prime-time television programs, movies, and in-the-street shootings.

A new study has found that every day, an average of 20 American children are hospitalized for injuries caused by firearms. Another 3,000 die every year before they get to the emergency room. And for people 15-19 years of age, firearm injuries are the second leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle crashes. This is what passes for “normal” in our armed society.  

And the gun right’s solution to gun violence is more guns—always more guns. The gun rights movement is in the process of creating a “shoot first” society. And this profusion of arms makes us instinctively wary of reaching out to others, even in acts of charity. The so-called stand-your-ground legislation now on the books in 20 states emboldens gun owners to use their weapons in public. But such laws, in sowing and then validating mutual distrust, drive people apart. In the end, an armed society makes it difficult for us to fulfill the Gospel and Catholic social teaching by working for the common good. It inclines us to live out of fear and defensiveness rather than a spirit of outreach and service.

As Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said following the announcement by President Obama of measures concerning regulation of firearms: “Violence in our society is a complex issue with many facets, taking many forms. While no measure can eliminate all acts of violence which involve firearms, we welcome reasonable efforts aimed at saving lives and making communities safer.”

 

Gordon:   Over the years, the work for Christian unity has been a major component of your ministry. What has motivated you to “stay in the saddle” on this?
     
Father Tom:









 
  The Church has a job to do: to play a leading role in God’s work of healing a broken world. It is by its own nature missionary, i.e., called and sent to witness in its own life to that communion God intends for all humanity and for all creation in the Kingdom of God. So visible unity amongst ourselves as Christians is a critical dimension of our witness. When, as a result of our divisions, we are not yet united at the Lord’s table and not yet able to bring prophetic witness together in the face of injustice, our witness is compromised and drained of its compelling power. The Church has a job to do in the world. In its tasks of proclaiming the gospel, promoting social justice, and peacemaking, one might say the world is too strong for a divided church. The problems are too vast for piecemeal responses.

As Pope Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical On Commitment to Ecumenism, “it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of appendix which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all she is and does (20).”

In my new book, Christian Unity: How You Can Make a Difference, I harvest the experience of 35 years of ecumenical ministry in giving very down-to-earth, grassroots-oriented suggestions as to what parishes, interchurch couples and families, monastics, religious communities and lay movements, social action groups, teachers and students, and people in professional life can do to help heal the wounds of division among the followers of Jesus for the sake of the Church’s mission in the world. (Here is a discount coupon for the book)

     
Gordon:   What are some of the plans for the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in 2017?
     
Father Tom:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 2017, is occasioning a year-long series of a variety of events aimed at healing and re-membering the body of Christ, the Church. I will be speaking with a Protestant colleague at several events being titled “A Civil Conversation on our Christian Differences”. These co-sponsored parish and campus ministry events will seek to honor the Reformation legacy while pointing the way toward a more visible unity in our faith, life, worship and mission in this ecumenical era. I also have a couple of upcoming TV interviews on the topic.

In the Spring, the National Workshop on Christian Unity, taking place this year in Minneapolis, MN, will also be focusing on the Reformation under the theme: “Reform, Repent, and Reconcile”

During the summer, I’ll be teaching at the only weeklong ecumenical formation program in North America—offered by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada --as well as leading two week-long ecumenical retreats, one in Calgary, “Together in Christ” (July 7-13)  at the FCJ Centre  and the other, "Making Jesus' Prayer for Unity Our Own" (July 21-27),  in Edmonton, Alberta, at the Providence Renewal Centre'

In the Fall I’ll be participating in an international Catholic-Evangelical dialogue in Chicago, followed shortly after by the North American Academy of Ecumenists annual conference which will take place this year in Boston. Interspersed among these ecumenical events will be the national Muslim-Catholic Dialogue (Chicago) and the national Vaishnava (Hindu) – Catholic Dialogue (Washington, DC).  

     
Gordon:   This has been an inspirational interview and will provide our readers with great insights into some of the most important challenges that are affecting all of our lives.