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Evansville, Indiana
October 23, 1987     The Message
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October 23, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement. The Messaae. Catholic Diocese of Evansville, October 23, 1987 1 .L/Faith Todav e cel / By Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS NC News Service E verybody believ_es in someone or something. This is so true that it is hard even to imagine, let alone find, someone who does not believe in anything. The liberal sprinkling of most casual conversations with "I believe" statements, however, can be misleading. Just because people say "I believe" does not mean they really believe. Sometimes people preface a statement with the words "I believe" as a way of cushioning what they say. Statements like "It is going to rain" or "God is good" are far more likely to evoke a reaction, positive or negative, than saying, "I believe it is going to rain" or "I believe God is good." This is what I call soft believing. It amounts to little more than per- sonal opinion. In place of "I believe" someone could just as easily say "I think," "I feel" or "in my opinion." Believing is a far more serious matter than mere personal opin- ion. This is where hard believing comes in. Unlike soft believing, hard believing deals with basic values and the very foundations of life. Hard believing is the stuff of religious faith and creeds. 7qE]H Even religious faith and creeds can be taken for granted -- at least much of the time. There are times, however, when events force peo- ple to think about what they really believe. On the social front there are wars, famines such as we find in many parts.of Africa today and natural disasters like the great floods in Bangladesh. There are also personal ex- periences such as illness or the death of a friend. Then there is the simple experience of plunging into an alien culture. 1 recall such a cultural ex- perience in Izmir, the ancient port of Smyrna in Turkey. Smyrna is but a few miles from Ephesus and like Ephesus it was the site of a Christian community way back in the first century. Today it is a Moslem city. I had come to Smyrna with three other students of the Bible. We had put up in a small Turkish hotel, recommended by a universi- ty student as a place where a Turk of ordinary means would stay. We were guaranteed an authentic Turkish setting for our visit. Once settled in, my companions i went out to scout the neighbor- hood. How close were the ruins of the old city? Was there a restaurant nearby? Where was the main mosque? A little later, I entered the tiny lobby of the hotel and was greeted in flowery French by a portly middle-aged Turk: "My friend, the proprietor of this establishment would be honored if you would respond to a few questions." I agreed. The proprietor, who knew neither French nor English, . sat at a desk with a nervous smile, looking at our foreign passports. To my amazement, the questions had to do with God. Better yet, they had to do with the Trinity. Never before had I joined in a conversation about the Trinity in a hotel lobby. But there I was talking about God -- Allah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and how God is Father, Son and Spirit. The little lobby was soon filled to overflowing with every face, young and old, turning from me to my interpreter and then to the proprietor. In a hotel lobby io Turkey, Father Eugene LaVerdiere found himseff called upon to explain, of all things, the Trinity. "It took awhile and lots of back and forth in French and Turkish," Father LaVerdiere remembers, before he realized what was hap- pening. It seems the hotel proprietor, a devout Moslem, had been gravely concerned that his Christian guest believed in three gods! In the end, they realized they shared a common belief -- indeed, a cause for celebration! A supplement to Catholic newspapers published by NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE 13t2 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. with grant astance from t [ The Catholic ChuPCh EXTENSION soov 35 East Wo&ef Dr., Chicago, Illin(s 60601 All contents copyright 1987 by NC News SeMce. r, It took awhile and lots of back and forth in French and Turkish before I learned what was happen- ing. Finally it was over. The pro- prietor sat back, his face beaming. His hotel guests, he had conclud- ed, were not infidels after all. Like him, we believed in one God. Fq[] I realized then that the pro- prietor, a devout Moslem, had been concerned that his Christian guests, the first non-Turks to stay in his hotel, believed in three gods. In Arabic, Allah means "the God." For the proprietor, the inter- preter and the neighborhood crowd, this was very much a mat- ter of conscience. For me, it was a matter of reflecting on what I real- ly believed and how best to ex- press my belief. The realization called for celebration. A snap of the filagers, a word from the proprietor,and tea and ripe olives appeared on swinging trays. Our common belief did, indeed, call for a celebration. 1 cherish the memory of that day. And I think of it sometimes at the Eucharist when we reflect on God's work together and profess our faith in the words of the creed, that we "believe in one God." Yes, indeed, this does call for celebration, eucharistic celebration: "The Lord be with you." Bring the bread and wine. (Father LaVerdiere is editor of Emmanuel.)