Yesterday I did something I don’t often do: I trawled a number of Christian websites in search of a ‘topical’ subject for my next Universe column. I didn’t find one, so I fell back on something I have thought about for years, the relationship between Islam and Christianity (shameless plug for the 30 June edition). However, the exercise was not in vain, for it made me realise yet again how differently we all view the Church — and that holds true, whatever denominational label (or none) we attach to ourselves. Some of the sites even left me wondering whether we worship the same God!
In saying that, I am not condemning or contradicting, simply expressing my own inability to recognize common ground. I am much more interested in spreading faith than in defending it. Therefore, when I read angry condemnations of the shortcomings, supposed or otherwise, of this person or that, of nuns and religious sisters in particular, I want to ask whether some of the energy directed towards condemnation might be better directed towards prayer. That isn’t a cop out, a substitution of woolly religious niceness for theological rigour or doctrinal precision, it is a genuine question. How can anyone who has experienced the love of God in prayer attack another for not being all that he or she thinks they should be, especially when he/she has no authority to do so? St Benedict in his Rule was very aware of how we all like to assume authority over others, and he gives short shrift to those who do. It is a failure in humility which leads, only too often, to a failure in charity.
Charity is, of course, the rub. Truth and charity are not opposed, but we can sometimes assert the truth in a way that is uncharitable and thereby negate much of the value of what we are saying. Living in a monastery, where we are encouraged to think twice before speaking and where words are weighed and pondered as expressing something of the Divine Word, I suppose this sort of mindfulness becomes habitual. We often fail (I know I do) but the ideal remains: to speak only such words as build up. That is a challenge we can all take on. It may mean we speak less. It certainly means we should speak more thoughtfully.
What words will you speak today?