In a spirit most ecumenical, my husband and I went to our local Temple’s “Deli Day” fundraiser last Sunday, where we ate tender, spicy corned beef, mouth-melting brisket, crisp potato latkes and strudel so tartly delicious, I have never met its peer. Everyone was exceedingly nice. Yesterday, my friend Alice opined that she often pictures a beleaguered-yet-serene God as looking a lot like The Buddha — an admission she fears will get her excommunicated one day. Why are we so hesitant to embrace religious practices and cultures other than our own? What’s to feel guilty about?

As early as the 1950s, Thomas Merton (fangirl alert!) wrote about the need for Catholics (and others) to embrace “Oriental” spiritual practices. This does not stop me from hiding the cover of the haiku book I’ve been reading during my hour of Perpetual Adoration. To me, it is an ideal book for prayerful contemplation — God in the movement of the seasons, the struggle of the poet to state such magnitudinous ideas in such succinct ways. Still, there’s a part of me that worries what Father might think if he caught me with it. It’s not exactly the work of St. Paul, though my husband might argue the writing’s better. (He doesn’t care much for Paul’s style. I’m okay with it…except for the portions that were added post-Paul by a small-minded monk who thought Paul was just a little bit too free in his praise and support of women. But I digress.)

What’s so wrong with building a spiritual portfolio the way one might order from a Chinese restaurant — a Peking Duck here, a Mu Shu Pork there? Just because I identify as Catholic, can’t I take away nuggets of wisdom from other faith practices? Because I do. And I can’t help thinking it’s a healthy practice.

Some would like to believe that their chosen religious iteration has it ALL — the complete package of answers, practices and meanings. I just can’t get behind that. It’s a wide world out there, and it stands to reason that God has sprinkled God’s wisdom all over the place. So while I stand with Catholicism, I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all of spiritual wisdom. It’s why I love reading SueBe’s and Ruth’s posts — it’s good to get a different view on things. It’s enriching. It makes one richer, in a spiritual sense.

So let your faith flag fly, all you Methodist-Confucian-Hindu-Sunnis! Feast from the banquet of spiritual delights. Build yourself a faith out of any materials you like. As long as it’s sturdy, who cares?

Advertisements