A Catholic & A Muslim Overcoming Stereotypes with Ramadan!
A Catholic & A Muslim Overcoming Stereotypes with Ramadan!
One Race, One Family, One God
by Maria Garcia
As an interfaith friend I have encountered friends from a number of different faiths (Hinduism, Judaism, Christian protestant, Islam) quietly and very intensely but never to this length.
A month ago my friend Nahela and I were talking about a problem we had encountered and both hate. Domestic abuse specially towards woman, once we had solved this problem I shared my interest in fasting during Ramadan and she also shared with me a project she was developing “Ramadan for all” so I joined.
Here is my experience. The first few days were extremely hard as I became aware of my natural need for water, as a Catholic I am used to fasting in a different way and it has never in my lifetime excluded water. Living in Texas also makes it a little harder. It did come to my thoughts during that week that Christ was given vinegar instead of water in his crucifixion when he was thirsty.
The next week was a very intense few days for someone who is realizing how gluttony is a weakness in my life and how it hurts my spiritual life. Although it was very demanding every night at Iftar I had the blessings of sharing dinner with wonderful friends, Nahela asked the group Pleksus to be my acting family for the month of Ramadan and they ensured I had somewhere to go and someone to share my Iftar. I will always cherish marvelous discussions with my Pleksus friends Mohamed studied chemistry at a Catholic University and although I wasn’t surprised by that as I went to a Catholic University and had Jewish friends I have to admit I was surprised how open he was to the idea of me being Catholic and we shared great conversation on our similarities. The Muslim faith acknowledges Jesus as one of their prophets and they also believe our Holy Virgin Mary as one of their mothers I’m very thankful I was also able to eliminate some misconceptions about Catholicism; such as the fact that we don’t worship Saints and Objects – Catholics we use them to recall the person or thing depicted. -.
One of the struggles was believe it or not that I got sick for eating too much during Iftars (dinner after sunset) I was very hungry some days but my friends always were there for me and were kind enough to guide me on simple tricks such as eating soup before and drinking a bottle of water and dates before the meal. I also missed some Suhoor several days but Nahela was kind enough to wake me up every morning then on since I’m not used to waking up at 4 am (for Catholics our Louds or morning prayer can be done as late as 8 am). Having said all the external practices of it I would kindly like to shift to the most important aspect; my spiritual journey. I quickly realized how many blessings I was receiving by restricting my body from something so simple. During that time I had a conversation with my dad who guided me once again to The Ascent of Mount Carmel a 16th century literature by St. John of the Cross; wonderfully writing about abstinence “To reach satisfaction in all desire its possession in nothing… Because if you desire to have something in all your treasure in God is not purely your all”
My experience ended with extraordinary events. Nahela accompanied me to Sunday mass and Father Paul gave a great homily on bullying and how we need to fight it, the light will always prevail. We also shared an Eid celebration with gift exchange and a great dinner confirming community is certainly an element of Ramadan that inspired me.
I would like to end this article with a portion of The Joy of Gospel by His Holiness Pope Francis: “This inseparable bond between our acceptance of the message of salvation and genuine fraternal love appears in several scriptural texts which we do well to meditate upon, in order to appreciate all their consequences. The message is one in which we often take for granted, and can repeat almost mechanically, without necessarily ensuring that it has a real effect in our lives and in our communities. How dangerous and harmful it is, for it makes us lose our amazement, our excitement and our zeal for living the Gospel of fraternity and justice! God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we treat others gas a transcendent dimension: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2). It corresponds to the mercy, which God has shown us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you… For the measure you give, you will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:36-38). What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of “going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters” as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift.”
This might have been the first time I fasted for 30 days but it is certainly not the last.
Thank you for giving me more than what I could have asked for!
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