Audrey and I were good friends when we were young. In high school, our paths didn’t cross very often as we simply didn’t have many classes together.
But in middle school, things were different. On one occasion, she came to my house, and we ended up at the church. That wasn’t so odd, because my brother and sister and I were in the church quite often after hours. It was almost a second home (since our dad was pastor there). And it was just a block away.
When you’re twelve or thirteen, you begin to think of church differently. You notice that people don’t worship the same. And you talk about the differences.
It’s not like when you are young – and oblivious.
It’s not like when you are older – and you are sure your way is the right way.
When you are young, you are malleable. You are eager to learn how you are different from your friends – and how you are the same. You have a great desire to open your world up and make new friends. Try new things. Experience new places.
Audrey and I found ourselves in the church sanctuary (a very small country Presbyterian parish). At first, we just played church. But then, we realized that we were drawing on different worship experiences. Soon, we were taking turns, explaining to each other what worship looks like at our church. How we do it. What the preacher does. What the priest does. What the people do.
We didn’t quite grasp the finer points of each other’s faith, but we were having fun. We were talking. We were showing, explaining, experiencing something very important.
Even at that young age, we felt the great desire to participate in ecumenism. To discover what we each believed – and to find common ground.
And like all good ecumenism, it was grounded in friendship and goodwill. There was no desire to win. We simply wanted to share.
I forget these things – now that I’m all grown up. I forget the friendship part and want to go right to the explaining part. I forget the desire to find common ground and find myself wanting, instead, to win.
I can still see Audrey in my mind, standing on the platform where my father stood every Sunday, explaining to me what the priest does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
And I realize that I would love to go back to that childhood home and visit the parish where many of my friends received the Sacraments. What we were yearning for all those years ago, we’ve actually discovered.
True ecumenism leads to unity.
While we have grown up and gone different ways, in the most important way, we have come together. We are both part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“Christ bestowed unity on His Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time. Christ always gives His Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her…. The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” (n. 820).