I was deeply gratified to read the words of Francis Cardinal George, OMI, in his book, The Difference God Makes
, which emphasized that “the most important conversation in the next hundred years is that between the two faiths that are growing most quickly in this postmodern era—Islam and Christianity” (p. 72). To contribute to that conversation in a helpful way is the goal of these reflections, for the outcome of the dialogue is assuredly beyond my control. Since the vast differences between Islam and Christianity as a whole are unwieldy and outside my limited area of study, I simply wish to compare what is imbedded in the two starkly different revelations concerning women and the lives they are called to lead.
The previous head of the American bishops’ conference didn’t merely point to this discussion and explain how critical it was; he also suggested key principles that would channel it in the most fruitful direction (pp. 74-75) First, he stressed the need for participants in the discussion to be well-versed in the tenets of their own faith, including its history and the subtleties of context. To that end, my views will present the Christian faith as understood by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The second principle is that we are to have an understanding of the faith and world view of our partner in dialogue, which I’ve made every effort to do. With no corresponding “magisterium” to provide a singular interpretation of that faith, I will refer to the Muslim’s holy scriptures, the Quran
, the various adhadith
, commentaries which explain those Scriptures, and shari’a
law, which is a juridical system based on the Quran
and the ahadith
. A third consideration stressed by Cardinal George highlights the importance of the vocabulary used in the discussion, so that words are chosen carefully and adequate explanations are provided for all religious teachings. I take this charge very seriously and perhaps we can establish a permanent forum in which to discuss these important matters in the future.
His fourth admonition to those who engage in such discussions is to proceed in love, both love of the truth and love of the other. I can honestly say that this love—meaning an intense desire for all women to find peace and joy in their feminine vocation—has been a backdrop and driving force in my work in this field, and this sincere affection extends to all women, regardless of how they understand their vocation and existence. This love in no way originates with me—shallow and weak creature that I am. Rather it draws from the unfathomable well of divine love that is the essence of God Himself. Having been called into the profound and mysterious relationship that God wishes to establish with all His children, my gratitude for this unsurpassable gift compels me to share this exquisite truth with those who may not fully appreciate the rich beauty of womanhood.