Spiritual Chemistry

 

In the next couple of weeks, a very dear friend of mine and her husband who live here in Florida are moving to Indiana. (Yes, they know how cold the winters will be!) They are moving for what I think are sensible reasons—anticipating aging, health difficulties, and wanting to be with one of their sons and his family.

And I will miss her so very much.

We met when Eileen responded to a notice I put out for people to join a meditation group I was forming. The moment we met, we clicked. She was not a regular participant, but came often enough for us to get to know each other. Although superficially we didn’t have a lot in common (although we were Conservatives, which is a very big deal), we shared many values about life, relationships, and marriage.

But I think the deepest way in which we connected was through our faiths. Eileen is Catholic, and I am Jewish, so in terms of theology we had many differences. But from the beginning, we showed sincere respect for all those things we shared, including our belief in G-d. It was clear to both of us that we were both grounded in our faiths, that we practiced them with devotion and an intimacy grew between us in that realization.

We periodically have breakfast together, and recently the topic of religion came up. (Ordinarily, we didn’t discuss religion much, since there were so many current events and life challenges to share.) But when religion came up, Eileen said she’d love to know my take on Jesus, particularly the questions about the Messiah. I said that I would also like to know from her about the rosary, how it’s used and what it means to her. We settled on talking about the rosary at our next breakfast.

That opportunity was this past week. Eileen told me about her own practice, the story behind her rosary beads and others she has owned, the ways to pray with the rosary, and the intention of the prayers (although we didn’t cover them in detail). I have always been interested in the ways that religious rituals are practiced, particularly as they relate to G-d. Eileen’s explanation was so sincere and heartfelt, sharing the questions she poses to herself during her practice and how she makes her practice alive and meaningful, that I was very moved. It was a lovely sharing.

*      *     *      *

In anticipation of our breakfast, I also suddenly remembered that I had acquired the rosary of my husband’s Aunt Esther, who passed away several years ago in Kentucky. I loved her dearly; she was a spunky, outspoken woman who didn’t suffer fools. Her Catholic faith was sound and deep, and although she stopped going to church (and I’m not sure about the reasons for her decision), she would “attend” church on television. When I last saw her, she was in a hospital hospice section, unable to speak due to a stroke, but she was conscious and could hear and see me. I took her hand and she grasped mine with all her might. It was a powerful gift for me; I knew I probably wouldn’t see her again. But I felt G-d’s presence between us, and that alone was sweet. When she passed, no one else was interested in her rosary beads, but I couldn’t bear to let them go homeless or to a stranger. So, everyone was willing to let me take them. This is a photo of them—

*     *     *     *

I have always been a student of relationships, trying to understand what makes them special, other times what makes them so trying. I began to think about my relationships with others and the part that religion plays. I feel that I tend to have a special connection to people who are people of faith, a shared “spiritual chemistry.” We all seem to practice in a way that demonstrates our dedication and love of G-d: the deeper the connection, the closer our connection. It doesn’t even necessarily matter if they are Jewish or not; it is, I believe, the shared belief in G-d that joins us. They live their faith, demonstrating that faith is integral to their lives. I try to do the same. Many times on Ricochet we have had discussions of faith, and I am always touched to recognize how much we have in common.

These observations are not meant to suggest that I don’t have meaningful, loving relationships with people who do not practice religion; to the contrary, I am lucky to have several, including my husband. Nor do I check people’s spiritual credentials before I befriend them. But I find it fascinating that G-d seems to play a role in some way as we grow to know each other.

So, I’m wondering: Do your deepest relationships tend to be with people of faith? Do you discuss the differences or similarities of your beliefs or theology? Or do you simply allow your faith to be the catalyst to a loving and caring relationship?

My thanks to dear Eileen for her friendship and love. I will miss her.

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  1. PedroIg Member
    PedroIg
    @PedroIg

    Lovely reflection, Susan.  That’s a really interesting question about friendships and spirituality.  I suppose I’m what one would call a “serious” Catholic.  (I hesitate to use the term “devout,” as I’m light years away from anything approaching sanctity.)  But in reflecting upon past friendships, it really has been a mix of people with whom I have spiritually “bonded” as it were.   I would say the deepest conversations on a spiritual level have been mostly with Christians/Catholics, but there are a few past friends (many of whom I’ve lost touch with and mostly of a secular Jewish background) with whom I’ve had very close-knit friendships in which I have felt free to share my spiritual insights, and they were very open to that.  It’s fascinating on many levels, so much so that it almost makes one think there’s something “genetic” about it.  Like you, it was very enriching to my spiritual life.  One of life’s great mysteries, I suppose.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    PedroIg (View Comment):

    Lovely reflection, Susan. That’s a really interesting question about friendships and spirituality. I suppose I’m what one would call a “serious” Catholic. (I hesitate to use the term “devout,” as I’m light years away from anything approaching sanctity.) But in reflecting upon past friendships, it really has been a mix of people with whom I have spiritually “bonded” as it were. I would say the deepest conversations on a spiritual level have been mostly with Christians/Catholics, but there are a few past friends (many of whom I’ve lost touch with and mostly of a secular Jewish background) with whom I’ve had very close-knit friendships in which I have felt free to share my spiritual insights, and they were very open to that. It’s fascinating on many levels, so much so that it almost makes one think there’s something “genetic” about it. Like you, it was very enriching to my spiritual life. One of life’s great mysteries, I suppose.

    This is a beautiful reflection, Pedrolg. I’m so glad you had those experiences with friends, especially with Jews. I am not an observant Jew, but I do more than some. And I treasure those I can share with. Thank you.

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  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn: o, I’m wondering: Do your deepest relationships tend to be with people of faith?

    Generally.

    Do you discuss the differences or similarities of your beliefs or theology?

    Occassionally.

    Or do you simply allow your faith to be the catalyst to a loving and caring relationship?

    It is a catalyst in pretty near everything.

     

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):
    It is a catalyst in pretty near everything.

    To those of us who know you on Ricochet, we see that.

    • #4
  5. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    That is such a beautiful, uplifting story on this Palm Sunday, and Holy Week for both Christians and Jews. Passover and Good Friday are occurring on the same day.  I think there is so much that Christians and Jews share. I watched The Ten Commandments last night and it made me think about those commandments. I really wonder how much of the world thinks about those ten simple commandments that alter so much of the world’s crises. 

    I do connect with people who have a strong faith, but we don’t really talk that much about religion. I think our values and outlook are driven by faith, so we naturally have more in common. Like you, I don’t check “religious” credentials either – a personal connection either develops or it doesn’t, and sometimes fades out.  My sister and I have a lot of similarities and talk about everything.  It’s interesting how she, myself and several lifelong friends took our time to really grasp how important it was.

    I guess wisdom does come with age and seeing things through a spiritual lens for me, gives more understanding than a secular or separate worldview. We’re all a work in progress and your gesture was so sweet.

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  6. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Funny. I know a devout Catholic Eileen (a dame of the Order of Malta) who is moving from Colorado to Florida (Ave Maria) to be near her children! She and her husband were our care givers when Little Miss Anthrope and I made the pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Order. She’s probably not going to be close enough geographically to you to develop a friendship, but I bet you’d be friends if she was your neighbor!

    I’ve had the luxury of being from a large Catholic family, and so the people I feel closest to are family (some practicing and some not). Other deep friendships tend to be with other Catholics. But, my favorite boss in my first engineering job (and obviously a good person) was a Jewish man. I always felt a kinship with him even though he lived/worked in Boston and I was here in Colorado.

    Most of my (our) other friends are former Catholics, interestingly enough. They’ve either gone atheist or evangelical. God respects our freedom. 

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  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I guess wisdom does come with age and seeing things through a spiritual lens for me, gives more understanding than a secular or separate worldview. We’re all a work in progress and your gesture was so sweet.

    A beautiful statement, FSC. Thank you.

    • #7
  8. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    When our daughters were in elementary school, they became best friends with two other sisters who also were born 18 months apart from each other. Before long, we met the parents and became fast friends. They were a Muslim family originally from Tunisia, and were still a bit bewildered by the strictly secular nature of American schools and public life.

    The first time they visited our house, Dad immediately walked to my bookshelf, saw a row of Bibles and other Christian books, and said, “gooood.” We were different religions but he was thrilled that we at least had a faith and took it seriously. That, and a general disposition of cultural conservatism tightened our bond.

    About half a year later, the girls’ mom was put on bed rest during pregnancy, so my wife volunteered to take her kids to school for several months and bring them meals. Then, Dad showered us with meals.

    One of the funniest moments was at my youngest’s birthday party. When my sister — an upper-middle-class, center-left Dem who believes all the “correct” things for her class — arrived, she was shocked that the majority of kids attending were Muslim girls. Some were strictly observant, others far laxer, and all ran around playing and giggling and screeching as kids do.

    As the festivities wrapped up, my sister (who’s wonderful despite her politics) quietly said to me, “What’s up with these kids? I thought you were conservatives.” I replied, “yes, we are conservative. That’s why all these families like us.”

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  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):
    As the festivities wrapped up, my sister (who’s wonderful despite her politics) quietly said to me, “What’s up with these kids? I thought you were conservatives.” I replied, “yes, we are conservative. That’s why all these families like us.”

    I love it! Thanks, Jon.

    • #9
  10. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge
    Chris Hutchinson
    @chrishutch13

    Susan, that is so funny you posted this about your Catholic friend yesterday! I was thinking about you as I had a long discussion yesterday with a Jewish woman about differences between the Jewish and Catholic faiths and people of different faiths interacting. I had never met her until Saturday. She’s an American who wanted to come help with aid for Ukrainians. Someone put her in contact with me and I told her she could spend the week staying in our home and I’d help her find ways to volunteer. She flew in on Saturday and asked if she could attend Mass with us yesterday. The Gospel reading on Palm Sunday is not such a nice one one for a Jewish person to hear so when we got home I was asking her how she felt afterwards. 

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):

    Susan, that is so funny you posted this about your Catholic friend yesterday! I was thinking about you as I had a long discussion yesterday with a Jewish woman about differences between the Jewish and Catholic faiths and people of different faiths interacting. I had never met her until Saturday. She’s an American who wanted to come help with aid for Ukrainians. Someone put her in contact with me and I told her she could spend the week staying in our home and I’d help her find ways to volunteer. She flew in on Saturday and asked if she could attend Mass with us yesterday. The Gospel reading on Palm Sunday is not such a nice one one for a Jewish person to hear so when we got home I was asking her how she felt afterwards.

    How cool? Can you share what she said without breaking confidence, Chris? I’d love to know. And how wonderful for you to invite her in.

    • #11
  12. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Beautiful story, Susan. To us Catholics, the rosary is a powerful prayer weapon. Very kind of you to pass that keepsake to your friend.

    Susan Quinn: So, I’m wondering: Do your deepest relationships tend to be with people of faith? Do you discuss the differences or similarities of your beliefs or theology? Or do you simply allow your faith to be the catalyst to a loving and caring relationship?

    I would say that the only deep and meaningful conversations I’ve had with people are people of faith. I came into full communion with the Catholic Church in October, 2004. My family and I immediately after this moved overseas: 4 years in Qatar, and 4 years in Indonesia. I unabashedly displayed my faith in my office (a crucifix on the wall and rosary beads on my desk) and this would always lead to curiosity from my Muslim colleagues and we would have some very interesting conversations. I would almost never get questions or comments from on the crucifix, or beads, or faith from my Western colleagues – most of them had no faith at all. I earned respect, and probably friendship, from many of the Muslims because of my faith – even though we were worlds apart in belief.

    I now have only 3 close men friends, but they are all fairly secular. Outside of golf, sports, politics, and our wives, we don’t really discuss things of faith. I should probably discuss faith more with them – I’m probably the only one they know who would.

    Thanks for this post – perhaps it will give me the courage to be more bold with them.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    I now have only 3 close men friends, but they are all fairly secular. Outside of golf, sports, politics, and our wives, we don’t really discuss things of faith. I should probably discuss faith more with them – I’m probably the only one they know who would.

    Thanks for this post – perhaps it will give me the courage to be more bold with them.

    Isn’t it wonderful to be with others, even of other faiths, who are curious about our beliefs and experience? Regarding your secular friends (without even knowing them), I’m thinking that in your shoes I might extend the invitation to share with them, but be prepared for them to say, no thanks. People can think that the only thing on your mind is converting them and that might make them uncomfortable; so you might want to weigh the value of the friendships with their reaction to your sharing.

    Also, to be clear, I’ve kept the rosary beads. My friend has several sets and I’m quite sure would have  wanted me to keep those from Aunt Esther.

    Thanks for your kind words, Scott.

    • #13
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I’m having exactly such an experience. In the coming days my wife and I will leave Phoenix, Az and return to Utah where we lived for more than a decade before moving to Phoenix 4 years ago. Family interaction, our age, and the Phoenix heat just about exhaust our reasons for such a move. For me, the heat is a big factor since I like a lot of time outdoors. For my wife, the blood relations are a big deal and the 3 grandchildren here are now adults so we don’t see much of them but we still have one in 9th grade  and two great-grandchildren toddlers in Utah so I think that will lift her spirits (and mine, though it won’t show as much).

    But I’ll still be here on Ricochet.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I’m having exactly such an experience. In the coming days my wife and I will leave Phoenix, Az and return to Utah where we lived for more than a decade before moving to Phoenix 4 years ago. Family interaction, our age, and the Phoenix heat just about exhaust our reasons for such a move. For me, the heat is a big factor since I like a lot of time outdoors. For my wife, the blood relations are a big deal and the 3 grandchildren here are now adults so we don’t see much of them but we still have one in 9th grade and two great-grandchildren toddlers in Utah so I think that will lift her spirits (and mine, though it won’t show as much).

    But I’ll still be here on Ricochet.

    You definitely have important reasons for moving, Bob. I wish you much enjoyment in your new/old home! You should update us on how it goes at some point.

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  16. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    “Also, to be clear, I’ve kept the rosary beads. My friend has several sets and I’m quite sure would have  wanted me to keep those from Aunt Esther.”

    There is a spiritual power in all of the things we hold on to. That spirit will guide you in one way or another. Rosary beads may seem antiquated or irrational but they have changed humanity in myriad ways and I know you appreciate that. 

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  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):
    There is a spiritual power in all of the things we hold on to. That spirit will guide you in one way or another. Rosary beads may seem antiquated or irrational but they have changed humanity in myriad ways and I know you appreciate that. 

    I do indeed. Thanks, SP

    • #17
  18. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge
    Chris Hutchinson
    @chrishutch13

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):

    Susan, that is so funny you posted this about your Catholic friend yesterday! I was thinking about you as I had a long discussion yesterday with a Jewish woman about differences between the Jewish and Catholic faiths and people of different faiths interacting. I had never met her until Saturday. She’s an American who wanted to come help with aid for Ukrainians. Someone put her in contact with me and I told her she could spend the week staying in our home and I’d help her find ways to volunteer. She flew in on Saturday and asked if she could attend Mass with us yesterday. The Gospel reading on Palm Sunday is not such a nice one one for a Jewish person to hear so when we got home I was asking her how she felt afterwards.

    How cool? Can you share what she said without breaking confidence, Chris? I’d love to know. And how wonderful for you to invite her in.

    Hi, Susan… sorry for the delay in replying. Well, without getting too much into the details she didn’t seem too offended or anything. Of course, she was well aware of ignorant people using New Testament passages to push intolerant messages but recognized parts about Jesus in the Talmud could be hurtful to Christians, especially if taken out of context. I pointed out that the official position of the Catholic Church is very much against the concept of Jewish deicide. So, we looked over Paragraphs 595-598 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church summed up by “Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus’ death… All sinners were the authors of Christ’s Passion” and something I posted yesterday (and in the past) Indeed, Jewish people are absolved even more when it says “it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews.” We also talked a lot about the Jewishness of Jesus. She didn’t say in so many words but I think she’d say that Christianity didn’t supersede Judaism but Judaism certainly preceded Christianity. I would wholeheartedly agree with the second part and personally find a deep knowledge of not only the Old Testament but Judaism overall to be essential to having a full understanding of Jesus and the New Testament. Our priest, Fr. Wieslaw, who’s  currently on a sabbatical in Israel, would agree. I hope I’m able to do that one day.

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  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):
    part

    Beautiful sharing, Chris. Thanks.

    • #19
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