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Evansville, Indiana
November 18, 1988     The Message
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November 18, 1988

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 18, 1988 1 &lt; > ;i.  . i..2 Faith T0dav / A supplement to Catholic newspapers I published by National Catholic News Ser- I vice, 1312 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. All contents copyrghtcq: 1988 by NC News Service. 39 I I By Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS NC News Service L ike most Catholics 1 know, 1 was born to Catholic parents and l grew up Catholic. In my child's world, all the people l knew were Catholic and I assumed everyone, or nearly everyone, was Catholic. I learned differently not long after I turned 12, my first year as a Boy Scout, when I accompanied our Catholic troop from Sacred Heart Parish in Watervillc, Maine, to the annual Boy Scout Jamboree held at the fairgrounds in Thomaston. It was my frst time away from home and my immediate family. Father Long, a great priest straight out of a Bing Crosby movie, was our chaplain. Come Sunday morning around 6:45, we left our campsite and quiet- ly assembled with other Catholic troops behind the grandstand where we had Mass. There were about 200. Back at the campsite, we were just fnishing breakfast when ,., < the bugle sounded and what /-4// seemed to be the whole fair-' " ..... ground came to life. As we "x, watched, troop alter troop of Protestallt Scouts folh)wed our nation's )'lag and their own troop colors into the main grandstand. There must have been about 2,500. Every so often the wind blew a few words sung or read from/" the Bible in our /direction. J "l'hat day 1 learned that l bdonged to a Catholic minority in a largely Pr()tcstanl Cotlnlry. Nearly 20 years later in the fall of 1967, I was in Turkey visiting early Christian sites on the way to study in Jerusalem. In lstanbul, I visited St. Sophia's, one of the greatest'and oldest churches in the entire Christi:m world. It had heen transh)rmed into a mosque. Christian churches do not have minarets. Nor are their walls covered with giant placards with quotations from the Koran proclaim- ing the sovereignty of Allah. In the years after the Boy Scout .lamlorcc, I had made nl;inv Protes- t:rot t'ricnds and come to recognize the broader Christian culture in which I lived. I also had made Jewish friends and become aware of the Jewish roots of the Judeo- Christian culture. Islam, however, was something new to lne. When 1 inquired of someone at ' I Beli s all / A trip to Istanbul made Blessed Sacrament Father Eugene LaVer- diere aware as never before that he belonged to a Christian minority among human beings. But the prayer of a young boy in a mosque there also taught him that there was much one could learn from the religious experience of people of other faith traditions. I I IIII III I, i ii i iii i ii ii i i i the small hotel where we stayed if there were many (;hristians in lstan- hul, I received :t puzzled look. "This is Islam! (;hristianity is out /here." N(). thcrc were ilol nlallv Chris- ti:ms in lst;mbul, except lk)r some f()l'cigncrs. As wc visited lst:ml3ttl's great mosques, it was like watching the Pr()tcstant troops gathering in the gr;lndstand all over again. ,ks (;hristians in Turkey, we were torcigners like no Moslem ever wottld be. Aml I realized it would be that way in much of the world fl)r (;hris!ians. r r'-] But 1 also learned something else. lstanbui has many mosques. The most impressive ones crown the ci- ty's many hills, with their domes, half domes and quarter-domes raising the hills as in prayer to the sky. Some are so architecturally awe- some that one easily could look right past the praying Moslems without giv- ing them so much as a thought. One mosque, perhaps the one named after Suleyman the Magni- ficetlt, seemed empty when we entered. Then we heard the ' solitary voice of a young boy, sitting alone on the carpet in the mosque's center. He held a copy of what I assumed was the Koran. His voice rose and fell in song with the quarter tones of the ancient Arahic scales bearing the joys, fears and pleadings of a human spirit to the presence of God. Sometimes his voice soared, quavered and then plunged into .... \\; near-silent groans of lament. ,' Then it rose again. Wc stood quietly bcltind a pillar, barefooted as is required, fitting in a holy place I tl() n()t kflow how Idng we stood tIwrc..N'() Olle said anything. When we Icft. the hm' still was praying. Thc ,sotulds of his prayer bec:irne part of mv religious imagiftation. As lie s,mg. I Ielt the vibrations of genuine prayer from the lips of a young Moslem. Through his. pra.ver, I too entered the presence of God. Yes, 1 did learn during those tew days in Istanbul that I belonged to a ('hristian minority among human be- ings. But 1 also learned that I could learn from the religious experience of nlen and women of other religions. From a young Moslem, I believe I ha,,'e a better understanding of prayer today. (Father LaVerdiere is editor of Emmanuel.) II I I I