"Nostra Aetate" - When you read these words, what is your thought? Is it a misprint? Is the author showing off with an idiom from the Latin language? Or, perhaps, he is introducing the readers to a relative of the alleged prophet, Nostradamus. And the answer is: None of the above!
"In our age" are the opening words to Conciliar Document that came out of the II Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, on October 28, 1965. Actually, this month marks the 30th anniversary of the written of this very important document under the pen of Pope Paul VI.
It is good to celebrate our diversity as the religious communities of Danbury do in a special way n November 21, at the "Interfaith Thanksgiving Service" at the First Congregational Church on Deer Hill.
The concept of Unity in Diversity will truly manifest itself on that occasion and all of Danbury is invited to attend, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims will be among the participants.
"Nostra Aetate" was not addressed to the churches of Christendom. This was done in the previous year, 1964, through the Conciliar Document on Ecumenism. Rather, this document reaches out to faith communities other than Christian, as is attested in its opening paragraph. "Ever aware of her duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations, she (the Catholic Church) reflects at the outset on what men (generally speaking) have in common and what tends to promote fellowship among them all form but one community al l stem from one stock which God created to people the earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God." How concretely was this manifested in our times by the recent visit to the United States by Pope John Paul II, especially in his speech to the United Nations.
The document reminds us that "throughout history even to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times there is present even a recognition of a supreme being, or still more of a Father (and we night add, of a Mother) This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense." In the past few weeks, a poll announced that over 85 percent of Americans believed in a supreme being or at least, in some kind of "Higher Power"..
Nostra Aetate addresses the following traditions:
Hinduism - which explores the divine mystery and expresses it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insight of philosophy seeks relief from the trials of the present life by ascetic practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love.
Buddhism - in its various forms, it testifies to an essential inadequacy of this changing world proposes a way of life by which people can with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination.
Other Religions- that attempt to calm the hearts of men by outlining a program of life covering doctrine , moral precepts and sacred rights. "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true in these religions and urges her children to enter with prudence and charity into discussions and collaboration with them "
Muslims - they worship God who is one, living and subsistent, Merciful and Almighty who has also spoken to men esteem an upright life and worship God especially by way of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
"The sacred Council (Vatican II) now pleads with all to forget the past (the quarrels and dissension that have arisen over the centuries between Christians and Muslims) and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.
Judaism - to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and of their race according to the flesh, is the Christ the son of Mary.
"The apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made. Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, the Council wishes to encourage further mutual understanding and appreciation."
The document concludes: "The Church reproves as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life o religion the Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to conduct themselves well and to be at peace with all."
Areas where we can all work together now: Dialogue - Prayer an Liturgy - Teaching and Education - Social Action - Community Interests and Needs - Examining Life Goals for Self and Family Members.
Leo McIlrath is Connecticut representative for the CORPUS Community