(Part 3 of a 3 part series on Faith and Religion.) Fr. John C. Silva was a good family friend. He was the pastor at St. Stanislaus Church when Leroy and I were married and the person responsible for us choosing a private, Catholic education for our children. He was a wonderful man and I loved him.
In a conversation one day, he told me that Heaven was like a big ballroom and each faith had a different entrance. The Catholics came in one door, and the Mormons came in another door, and the Jews yet another.... and so on. The key is that we all end up in the same place. I agreed with him immediately. That’s the heaven that I’ve envisioned… With a God that is inclusive, not exclusive. Our journeys are different but our destination is the same.
There is a difference between faith and religion and it’s easy to get caught up in the rules instead of the goal. Faith is your personal experience, your own journey your own encounter with God. Religion is the community, living by a set of rules and guidelines filled with wonderful history and traditions. Without faith, religion is no greater than any simple club. You can participate all you want, but it will get you nowhere without faith. Now, faith without religion doesn’t work either. Our faith requires us to live in community and that’s where the benefit of a practiced religion comes in to play.
First and foremost, work on your faith. And then, find a religion that helps to foster that faith. It really is that simple. I do think that family relationships thrive when there is a shared religion. I’m witness to this fact. But each of us must make the adult decision for ourselves.
For me, faith is the priority. But once that faith is found, be diligent and loyal to the religion you choose. We are rule followers. They are there for a reason, to protect us and those we love. Follow the rules. I would hope that someone who calls themselves a Buddhist is faithful to his religion. If you’re going to be a Baptist, be the best darn Baptist you can be. It’s really that simple.