“The Body of Christ has experienced so much division, and that’s never God’s will,” says Fr. Sam Martin, priest of the Diocese of La Crosse. Jesus prayed for His Church “to be one, Father, as You and I are one.” The purpose of ecumenism is to bring unity among Christian faiths. Sometimes, this is also necessary within your immediate or extended family.
A common misconception of true ecumenism is that it waters down the Catholic Faith and aims at having everyone ‘just get along’. Ecumenism must be based in truth but also requires charity. “We don’t believe in the same things, we don’t agree about everything, so can we find charity in that? Can we agree to disagree with love in our heart and trust that the Lord can bring about conversion?”
Differences in beliefs among family members can be difficult to discuss. We may want to avoid conversations that could lead to arguments or divisions. “There’s the nature of a family that original sin affects our relationships so if we could talk, pray, come together about the things that we do have in common, then with those things that we disagree on, God would help us with that if we asked Him,” says Fr. Martin.
In order to discuss faith with your family of different denominations, you need not have all the answers. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” or, “I’ll find out.” Fr. Martin says, “That’s the honest thing to do, I think. It’s the most compelling – it shows humility. Sometimes we don’t know the answer, but our Faith seeks to understand.
Mark called The Inner Life® to share his family experience, explaining that his brother left the Catholic Church and has been giving his family a hard time, telling them that they were going to hell for being Catholic and trying to convert them to his Christian denomination.
This situation may hit close to home for many families. How can we respond to our family members with love? “We want to be true to our Faith. In those instances, I should grow closer to God and see if there’s a way to show that I’m trying to do what you’re doing, I’m trying to know Jesus, love Him,” responded Fr. Martin.
“I don’t see anything in scripture that would give any indication that someone who is sincere in their faith is somehow in harm’s way, even if that faith is somewhat in odds with our own,” says Fr. Martin. He gave the example of Mother Teresa, who ministered to the poorest Hindus in Calcutta, India. “Mother Teresa was accused of proselytizing – of trying to trick Hindus into becoming Christians, but that was never her way. She would talk about God, but she would say – if you’re a Hindu, be a good Hindu. Don’t just go through the motions; give your whole heart to this! God deserves your best. He deserves everything.”