They were just friends, of a friend, of a friend and were passing through Rome.
Like anyone who lives at a global crossroads, I get lots of referrals. So with some reluctance I broke away from ordinary busyness and went to dine with strangers. They live in Los Angeles, work in Hollywood, don’t go to church, don’t believe in God, and are proud to be politically far left of the religious right.
Last night those strangers and I walked out of my favorite Roman kitchen as friends. Not acquaintances, friends — the kind of relationship for which you will always invent reasons to cultivate.
For us mortals, instant friendship like this is not the norm. We’re more accustomed to cordial encounters that end with an exchange of pleasantries and an un-stated resignation to let circumstances determine whether paths will cross again. Aware we only have so much energy and so much time, we draw lines and make circles. And inside those circles are generally people who look and think most like us.
So why were things different last night?
Because we managed to make a surprising discovery. It was this: our many differences on hot potato issues like religion, politics, and even life’s existential meaning were, in fact, miniscule — I would almost say, insignificant — when compared to the many and profound beliefs we shared.
How could that be? How can I, a man of the cloth, say our contradictory opinions on God’s existence, for example, were of only relative importance?
Throughout our wide-ranging conversation, I noticed in them a curious and beautiful set of qualities, ones that I would like to imitate: 1) they listened 2) they were seeking truth 3) they possessed an obvious willingness to embrace the truth always and as uncomfortable as it might be.
This inner depth was most present when the topic turned to “mission,” that we have a mission in life, that we mustn’t live only for ourselves, that our lifework, yes even our profession, should have everything to do with bringing people — beginning with our families and moving outward — into closer contact with what is good, true, and beautiful.
Maybe the spontaneous spawning of friendship had to do with the mutual realization that people who think like this, need to stick together.
After all, if Truth is One, honest and brave seekers are all heading in the same direction.
God bless, Father Jonathan
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Politics and Religion
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• Obama Courts Jewish Votes as Doubts Persist http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-obama-jews_bdmay18,0,7937162.story
• Hispanic Evangelicals Hold Potent Votes, Experts Say http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/state/orl-nino0508may05,0,6937724.story
• Purity Balls: Dancing the Night Away, with a Higher Purpose http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/us/19purity.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
• Are Our Girls Getting More Violent?
• Biblical Principles Guide Some Fitness Routines
• Human Suffering: Why We Care (or Don’t)
• Britain OKs Animal-Human Embryos for Research http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2008/05/20/britain_oks_animal_human_embryos_for_research/
• U.K. Christian Leaders Condemn Brown’s Backing of Hybrid Embryo Plans http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.leaders.condemn.browns.backing.of.hybrid.embryo.plans/18858.htm
• Company Offers to Clone Dogs to Five Highest Bidders
• Science, Religion Not in Conflict, Bishops Say in Stem-Cell Document http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0802636.htm
• United Church of Christ Congregations Discuss Race http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-ucc-racemay19,0,3921883.story
• U.K. Survey: Majority See God as Male
• Mid East Food Crisis Creates an Opening for Muslim Fundamentalists http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fg-food18-2008may18,0,1812876.story
• On 150th Anniversary, D.C.’s Oldest Black Parish Celebrates Its Legacy http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/18/AR2008051802323.html?hpid=sec-religion
• ‘Prince Caspian’ Inspires Churches to Examine Faith Journey http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080520/32446_%27Prince_Caspian%27_Inspires_Churches_to_Examine_Faith_Journey.htm
Faith under Fire
• Christians Grapple with Evangelism at Olympics http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=/Culture/archive/200805/CUL20080520b.html
• Iraq Church Opposes Death Penalty for Killer of Archbishop http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080520/32438_Iraq_Church_Opposes_Death_Penalty_for_Archbishop_Killer.htm
Not All News is Bad News
• Donor Gives Million to Save Historic N.Y. Church http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/donor-gives-20-million-to-save-st-brigids/?hp
• Teen Saves Neighbor from Kitchen Fire
• Students Reach Out to Would-Be Attacker http://www.scnow.com/scp/news/local/pee_dee/article/students_sign_bible_for_schallenberger/6048/
News Which Never Made the News
• Va. Late-Term Abortion Ban Remains Unconstitutional http://hamptonroads.com/2008/05/virginia-lateterm-abortion-ban-remains-unconstitutional
• God and Science Collide in Nation’s Capital http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/080516-god-science-debate.html
• Tex. Colleges Build Campuses, Relationships in Middle East http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5789265.html
• Extinct ‘Tiger’ DNA Implanted in Mouse Cells http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2008/05/20/scitiger120.xml
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Father Jonathan Morris is author of the new book, “The Promise: God’s Purpose and Plan for when Life Hurts”. For information go to www.fatherjonathan.com