Monday, May 26, 2008

In Communion

At Gianna's First Communion on Sunday, Father Fitzgerald spoke about the relationship between the words community and communion just as I was thinking about the commonalities between Catholicism (the religion of my childhood) and Buddhism (the religion I practice as an adult). I'm fascinated by the relationship between these two world religions which developed long ago thousands of miles from one another, and I'm convinced that they speak to a compelling human need for a spiritual life. Though the paths to transcendence offered by each religion appear to be considerably different, I am most drawn to the similarities between them.

For several years, I've been training in a Buddhist practice for compassionate living. The traditional text that guides this practice is entitled The Way of the Bodhisattva. The teaching was originally composed and delivered orally in the eighth century by an Indian scholar and monk named Shantideva and was later committed to writing in Sanskrit. The translation that my teachers chose to study was completed by Wulstan Fletcher, a Benedictine monk. This convergence of Catholic with Buddhist appeals to me. Sometimes, my fellow students are troubled by Fletcher's word choice because he selects words that are more common in Christianity than in Buddhism—words like sin and evil. However, I find not only his word choice but the entire text to serve as a bridge between the faiths.

I am much more interested in commonality than I am in difference. Father Fitzgerald's words about communion and community resonated with me because I had spent a good deal of time over the weekend with family and was immersed in the experiences I'd shared with others. It's not surprising that the words common, community, and communion each come from the Latin root communis which means shared by all.

This weekend I shared many experiences and emotions with others:

  • I enjoyed the company of women as we prepared food for a wedding;
  • I stood with a roomful of guests as a bride entered, escorted by her father;
  • I danced with young and old in celebration of a marriage union;
  • I sat among a circle of loved ones passing a newborn from arms to arms;
  • I gathered with others around three graves paying tribute to the ones we've lost;
  • I sat and prayed with the congregation at St. Joseph's;
  • I was one of many witnesses to Gianna's First Communion.

I am blessed by my rich and varied community.

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