Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 12, 2001
Judge altered biased attitudes after hearing priest
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
The far-reaching impact of The Christophers, as a truly ecumenical movement which speaks to people of all faiths and of no particular faith, came home to me recently.
I received a telling letter from a now retired state supreme court justice. The judge's parents taught him to be suspicious of religions other than his own. And Catholics were at the top of the list of prominent faiths to be avoided.
As the judge matured he began to wonder about his perceived enemies. He even dared to wonder if it's possible that we're all children of the same God. Could it be, he asked, that even though we come to the reality of a Higher Being from different perspectives, our final destination is the same?
This musing put him in direct conflict with the biased attitudes he had learned as a child.
Then one day, listening to the radio, the judge heard the compelling message of an articulate priest. His name was Father James Keller, and he had founded an organization called The Christophers.
Keller spoke of the importance of all religious faith. He encouraged us to see in the different beliefs and practices of other faiths not a threat, but a sign of hope.
God makes us all different and that's part of the eternal wonder of his creation. The differences of approach give testimony to the universal importance of humankind's search for meaning - and for God.
The judge wrote me that in those few moments of listening to Keller on the radio so many years ago, his view of others began to change. He had never known a priest, and certainly never imagined that he would ever hear one say that his way to God was a path that should be worthy of respect, appreciation, even delight for other people.
With that affirmation, the judge embarked on a new recognition of the value and dignity of every religious search. He even came to see that each human being, including non-believers and those who struggle to believe, are worthy of esteem.
And it all began with the words of one priest who dared to affirm our shared search for God.
There is value in this journey toward divine truth. When you look at our often divided and conflicted world and see that too often people use religion as an excuse for prejudice, cruelty and even war, it's wonderful to remember the hopeful message of Father James Keller.
It's a much-needed message that must be interpreted anew for each generation. As Pope John Paul has warned us more recently, "To do harm, to promote violence and conflict, in the name of religion is a terrible contradiction and offence against God."
There are many reasons I love working for The Christophers. Among its greatest strength as an instrument for God's goodness is its work of bridge-building, through which it encourages all people of good will to develop mutual respect for the myriad ways men and women come to believe.
Imagine, if we all lit candles in the midst of the darkness, how bright, tolerant and respectful our world would be.
One of Keller' first books was called You Can Change The World - a great title because it summed up his positive attitude.
Here is a quote for your consideration: "Love one another. Hold fast to that whether you understand one another or not. And remember nothing really matters except loving God and others over the whole world as far as you can reach."
Thanks, judge, for that letter, and for telling us how you came to open your heart and extend your reach.
(For a free copy of The Christopher News Note, Tolerance, write to The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017)
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