February 4, 2011

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Contemplating the Quaker and Catholic faith traditions

Shirley Vogler MeisterSome readers might wonder why now and then I have mentioned Quakers in my column for a Catholic newspaper.

Actually, in this day and age of multiple faith traditions, I consider the Quaker faith to be a kindred spirit with many Christian Churches.

A few months ago, a Quaker friend gave me a gift—a book that I didn’t have time to read until recently.

Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey through Quakerism was written by Irene Lape and published by Brazos Press, a division of Baker Book House Co., in Grand Rapids, Mich.

A book review featured on the back cover summarizes the author’s reason for writing it.

“After a childhood steeped in the intellectualism and skepticism of modernist ideologies,” it explains, “Irene Lape is now a devoted Catholic with an astounding story of how God led her back to the Church through an encounter with devout Quakers.”

I love the Catholic faith of my parents. When I eventually learned that my father had joined the Church, I was so proud of him.

Yet, my parents—longtime practicing Catholics—showed me by example that other faiths are honorable, too.

In those days, my parents were such devout Catholics that they asked their parish priest for permission to take their children to a Protestant wedding of a relative in our extended family. Some readers might not realize that such permission was necessary at one time.

I am not writing to promote the Quaker faith, mainly because through the years I have found that there are many similarities between Catholics and Quakers.

The biggest difference is our Catholic belief in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood in the holy Eucharist.

Years ago, I did not choose to worship at a nearby Quaker meeting because I was angry with my parish or Catholicism.

I went to the Quaker meetings because of turmoil in my personal life. I cannot even recall exactly how long I went to church there!

I also admit that on some Sundays I prayed with the Quakers and did not go to Mass.

Yet, more often, I attended a Catholic Mass as well as the Quaker meeting. I have discussed this with priests and friends many times.

I have good Quaker friends, but I also have good friends who are members of many other faith traditions.

My parents taught me about ecumenism at a time when it was not discussed very often, and I am grateful for that.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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