Thursday, October 6, 2011

Interreligious Prayer

The corresponding video can be viewed at:

10/6/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:45 pm (et).
10/6/2011 12:48 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:48 pm (et).
10/6/2011 12:52 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:52 pm (et).
10/6/2011 12:53 pm (et) Megan E: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:53 pm (et).
10/6/2011 12:55 pm (et) lagomez: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:55 pm (et).
10/6/2011 12:57 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 12:57 pm (et).
10/6/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
10/6/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Interreligious Prayer.’ The reflection is from Fr. James Gardiner of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and coordinator of DC’s celebration commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Assisi Interreligious Day of Prayer for Peace.
10/6/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
10/6/2011 1:02 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it leads to some issues.
10/6/2011 1:05 pm (et) sheaya: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/6/2011 1:05 pm (et).
10/6/2011 1:07 pm (et) Moderator: We have this comment from our Facebook page, so Fr. Gardiner can you begin by addressing this: I like the idea of praying with special intention, for ten days in an inter-religious context, for peace. But the Jewish liturgy already includes a prayer for peace three times every day, so I'd like to know a little more about what is different about this prayer... I cannot find substantial details about the interreligious service on the 16th from the Friars' website. Where could I find information?
10/6/2011 1:07 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: logs in on 10/6/2011 1:07 pm (et).
10/6/2011 1:11 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: While a sentiment such as peace is certainly universal, how can faiths like Buddhism, which does not pray to a god, pray with faiths that do pray to a god? What sort of WORDS can be said that would not offend some of the faiths present? How can Christians pray with non-Christians when Christians pray 'in the name of Jesus' and such a phrase would offend any non-Christians (especially Jews and Muslims) present, yet leaving the phrase out might be off-putting to some Christians? In short: while we share universal sentiments, how to we find universal words by which to express such sentiment?
10/6/2011 1:11 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Fr. Gardiner, you said something along the line of 'properly multireligious prayer' what is the distinction?
10/6/2011 1:11 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: Thanks for your interest. We should ALL be praying for peace every day (some might say all day!) because the peace which we are envisioning is nothing short of a gift of God. We RCs have a prayer for peace in our daily liturgy. What's different about the interreligious gathering on the 16th is, first of all, it's an interreligious gathering -- people of faith who express that gift of faith in various ways. second, we're gathering together to commemorate the first of these multi-religius gatherings which took place in Assisi, Italy, twenty-five years ago. (I was there.) and ourgathering will inaugurate ten days of prayer for peace during which we hope that we will use one another's prayers for peace
10/6/2011 1:13 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It is true Laura, I work with an interfaith group that brings together Jews and Christians. There is a prayer said every week that mentions that we should do all that we can do for the good of the world, but at the end I feel the need to add 'with the help of your Grace' which is decidedly not Jewish
10/6/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It seems we all bring particular presuppositions to our prayers.
10/6/2011 1:15 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan, would it be enough to 'say' these words silently within one's own mind rather than with ones lips, so that others' ears won't hear?
10/6/2011 1:16 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: You pinpoint a challenge and I can only refer to my experience at the first of these gatherings in Assisi in 1986. Each one prayed without any recrimination; and we learned from one another. No one, I recall, was offended. It seems to me that weneed to be authentic representatives of our respective traditions. If this is the way we pray, then this is the way we pray and we're not afriad or ashamed to share that with one another. What bothers me, sometimes, is that we seem to be getting shy about praying in front of anybody these days. Whenever someone says to me, 'shall we pray,' I'm ready.
10/6/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean that is the practice I have adopted, but I am not sure if it just glosses over the issue...I mean it solves how people would react, but it doesn't seem to change that I am praying differently
10/6/2011 1:17 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: by properly interreligious, I understand something that's authentic in a tradition -- not something simply made up for the occasion (although those things have their place, for example, when we're speaking for everyone as at invocation for a civic event.
10/6/2011 1:18 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Fr, so the people at these gatherings do not pray in unison with the people of other faiths? Rather, they are taking turns each sharing their own prayers while the others listen respectfully but not necessarilly saying reciting the prayers of other faiths?
10/6/2011 1:18 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: that's what we're planning. although we are planning to sing together. who was it that said, however, that s/he who sings once, prays twice?
10/6/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: is it difficult to find songs that are more universal than the prayers?
10/6/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Or easier to find more universal songs?
10/6/2011 1:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So can a Catholic pray say a Muslim prayer? Or just respect that a Muslim is praying? And are there universal prayers?
10/6/2011 1:21 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: 'yes' tothe question is an understatement! and finding syrics and melodies that are not totlly unknown makes it more challenging. maybe we need to challenge religious composers to partner with theologians and help us solve this problem.
10/6/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: some religions (like Islam) do not sing - so how can they feel comfortable with song as an expression of faith in these interfaith gatherings?
10/6/2011 1:22 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Fr, 'yes' is it more difficult or easier? (sounds like you are saying difficult but just want to clarify)
10/6/2011 1:23 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: I see noreason why a Catholic couldn't say a Muslim prayer; itwould obviously depend on the text. The same is true for Muslims being invited to say Christian prayers. And not all Christians are totally comfortable with one another's prayers/
10/6/2011 1:23 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I can see how finding familar melodies would be more difficult, perhaps, then finding words that are more universally acceptable
10/6/2011 1:24 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: there are many ways of participating in such gatherings; present -- respectful, attentive, etc.
10/6/2011 1:25 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: so long as those Christian prayers do not end with 'in Jesus' name we pray'
10/6/2011 1:25 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: It is my understanding that Assisi used the model of "coming together to pray". In the InterFaith Conference, we have used this, but prefer where possible to say we are "coming to pray together." And praying in such a way that all can say Amen.
10/6/2011 1:26 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Why do you feel interreligious is so special when it comes to prayer?
10/6/2011 1:28 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: by yes, it's more difficult to find melodies as well as lyrics. for the past several New Year's mornings, I participated in a 'prayer for peace' event at a local Buddhist monastery. all the participants (who were termed the 'ususal suspects') were invited to speak/pray for four minutes apiece. invariably two, if not three, would resort to the 'peace prayer' of 'saint Francis' (which wasn't authored by St. Francis). that to me was an indicator of how difficult it is to find words that resonate with all our traditions.
10/6/2011 1:29 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I'd like to share MY answer to Susan's question: coming together in prayer is special because if we believe we humans are all one under 'god', from the same source, coming together demonstrates this 'oneness' and the 'connectedness' of all humanity
10/6/2011 1:30 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: from a Christian perspective, I'm convinced that where two or three or more are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them. it's not a question of 'the more, the merrier,' but of real presence.
10/6/2011 1:31 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I guess it may seem like a stupid question, but are they praying to the same God? I mean we all come with different presuppositions, so does that get in the way?
10/6/2011 1:32 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: may I add to Laura's answer to Susan? I have a gnawing suspicion that most of the fences we're erected are the cause of many of our problems. I'm from the Bronx and the hedges we had between our respective back yards were move an invitation than a barrier.
10/6/2011 1:34 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: most of us, I suspect, that God is by definition 'one' and our prayers eventually get to the God of gods and Lord of lords.
10/6/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: Megan E said: Fr. Gardiner, I have heard it said that things like interfaith prayer are 'watered down' compared to what might be said by just one religion. How would you respond to this?
10/6/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan, I suppose if someone feared that prayers of an interfaith gathering were going to some 'other' god then those are the sort of people who would not attend such a gathering (though perhaps this shows that we need to do something to make it possible for such people to feel comfortable rather than fear such a gathering - how do we do that?)
10/6/2011 1:36 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Well, I would think the fear would be more of that the prayers are not going to any god...
10/6/2011 1:37 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: Lots of things get watered down, unfortunately. just look at greeting cards! or political platforms! the list could go on. we've got two problems to deal with: first is the inability of our words, phrases and concepts to encompass some realities; second is our need to respect one another in a way that reflects that each one is created in the image and likeness of God. all language -- the language of love is one example -- is watered down when it comes to the real thing.
10/6/2011 1:38 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: 'the tao that can be spoken is not the true tao'
10/6/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: God who is love is beyond reason and words
10/6/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: the true 'name' of god cannot be spoken (the sacred tetragramaton) and the 100th 'hidden' name of god (Islam)
10/6/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: perhaps, then the key to interfaith prayer is simply being together in the silence!
10/6/2011 1:39 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: I'm not sure how such fears can be addresed; one thing I am sure of, however, is that we don't have enough opportunities to have these kinds of experiences and the lack of such epxeriences can breed fear, i.e. fear of the unknown.
10/6/2011 1:41 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: Laura, you just put your finger on something that will be prominent in both Assisi and here in DC -- silence. I'm reminded of the prophet who encountered the Lord God not in the powerful demonstrations of nature, but in near silence.
10/6/2011 1:42 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I like that Laura, silence for me has always somehow been connected with awe and if anything, I think that is central to all traditions, not that I'm going Rudolf Otto or anything
10/6/2011 1:44 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What do you think we can learn from such spiritual encounters with other traditions? Laura, you mention that it highlights the 'unity' of humanity, but do you think this can lead to learning of the differences too?
10/6/2011 1:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Someone like Paul Knitter talks about how working together on issues breeds trust that can lead to conversation, but can prayer do the same? Is it already moving into those deeper conversations?
10/6/2011 1:45 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: Here's a problem: we Americans, it seems, can't seem to tolerate silence much. We need not so much sound, but noice. One of the things we're planning at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land is the erection of an urban hermitage. We desperately need places, it seems to me, to be silent more than we are now. That doesn't mean that we should refrain from raising our voices in protest, for example, in the fact of obvious injustice or, which seems to be more difficult, in praise.
10/6/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Well it also seems silence can be misconstrued...silence can be interpreted with the old saying 'if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all'
10/6/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It's ambiguous
10/6/2011 1:48 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: I'm currently re-reading Paul Knitter's latest book on how he's a better Christian because of his growing familiarity with Buddhism. Some of our mutual friends think that he went too far, but I feel the jury is still out on that one. As a Christian, I think that all inter-religious encounters can be helpful to our own faith. that's my experience anyway.
10/6/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Well, I personally gravitate to our similarities. when it comes to learning about differences, I find that dialogue rather than interfaith prayer is more effective. But the focus on connections through similiarities always stikes me as more significant than our differences. However, we certainly should respect and even come to value or appreciate the differences within the similarities
10/6/2011 1:49 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: just liek there's a time to be born and a time to die and time for any number of other things, there are times to speak -- loudly if necessary -- and times to be quiet. People form the Bronx, like me, resonate with the former.
10/6/2011 1:51 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: It is similarities that bring us together. It is differences that give us our unique identities. But uniqueness smacks of ego development and it seems to me that one goal of all religions is to decrease rather than increase personal ego, subdue it under a larger context (be that god or the one universe we all live in or simply the one human family that we are all a part of)
10/6/2011 1:53 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: Laura hits the nail on the head; it's an argument (not a 'proof') that faith and religion and all that goes with it is, for the want of a better word, 'living.'
10/6/2011 1:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: so coming together is not so much to 'celebrate our differences' as to recognize the larger context of which these differences are a part of a shared and common foundation
10/6/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: too often it is the differences between religions that lead to the lack of peace in the world and in our regions and neighborhoods (where too many people prefer uniformity rather than diversity)
10/6/2011 1:55 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: you're both correct, in my estimation; the 'trick' is to keep both in tension -- celebrating differences and recognizing the larger context and the ways we deal with both.
10/6/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: now that sounds odd: to embrace diversity while downplaying our differences
10/6/2011 1:57 pm (et) Moderator: Alright everyone, we have just a couple of minutes left, so please begin wrappping up those final thoughts.
10/6/2011 1:57 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: but perhaps downplaying difference is the way to embrace diversity. diversity 'is the spice of life' - it makes life more interesting
10/6/2011 1:58 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: it's no secret that religion has done more than it's share to foment discord, even violence. Fr. Leo Lefebure, who teaches at Georgetown, has a great book on this subject. .
10/6/2011 1:58 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: if differences can help up enhance each others' life through cooperation rather than competition, that might be the goal
10/6/2011 1:59 pm (et) Fr. Gardiner: what's time together like this without a commercial? hope to see you on Sunday, October 16th, 3:00 to 4:30 PM at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, 14th and Quincy Streets, NE. thanks foryour interest and participation. God bless!
10/6/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean diversity and relation between diversity is the very foundation of life, at least as a Christian with the basis being the Trinity - three in one
10/6/2011 2:00 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. Next week our chat is a ‘Sikhism and Interreligious Dialogue’ with Mr. Rajwant Singh, Sikh member of IFC’s Board. We hope to see you there! If you would like to contact or guest, please contact me at
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