Lutherans, Catholics celebrate blessing of shared faith
The May 1 Lutheran-Catholic service at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha was held to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, but the title – Common Prayer – provides a more accurate summary of the event.
The focus was on "shared," as more than 500 Lutherans and Catholics gathered for the service and celebrated shared blessings, powerful shared faith and heartfelt shared prayer.
The event was organized thanks to the cooperative efforts of Archbishop George J. Lucas and Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas, and they shared in leading the 75-minute service.
The two bishops blessed the congregation with holy water in a rite renewing the shared baptism. And they led the Lutherans and Catholics in expressing their shared faith in the Apostles Creed, and in prayers throughout the service, ending with the Our Father.
For this Lutheran-turned-Catholic, the service was profound, especially from a family perspective. Gathering for prayer with Catholics never would have happened for my grandfather, who was among the founding members of a Lutheran Church in rural northeast Nebraska in the early 20th century. The same could be said about my father, who grew up in an era when attitudes toward Catholics were shaped by misinformation and suspicion. Of course, the same was true of Catholic perceptions of those from other faiths.
Dialogue between the two faiths was all but nonexistent. But over the past 50 years or so, leaders have been talking. Dialogue has become common and ongoing. And the celebration of a faith shared has become a focus.
Bishop Maas, in his sermon May 1, thanked Archbishop Lucas and Archbishop Emeritus Eldon Francis Curtiss for their support of continuing the dialogue between the two faiths. The bishop for the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also challenged those attending to continue talking to one another.
That dialogue has required people to be open, vulnerable and to take risks to create unity and witness, he said. That process "can challenge us and turn us upside down," he said, but "that’s not a new thing for disciples of Jesus."
Continued dialogue doesn’t mean giving up something or changing something. It is about honesty and respect for any differences. What the faith traditions share – a belief grounded in the love, presence and power of Jesus Christ – should continue to be the foundation for discussion.
Both faiths also hold traditions of prayer, and just as we turn to prayer in all that life brings us, regular joint celebrations of prayer would seem to be a simple way to support the continuing dialogue.
Catholics and Lutherans will gather again Sept. 11 for another service marking the Reformation and celebrating the continuing dialogue. Beyond that event, when, how often and where we pray together are questions for others to answer.
Let’s just don’t wait another 500 years.
THANKS TO SPONSORS
As another school year winds to a close, another year of Catholic Voice in the Classroom also comes to an end.
That program, which takes the Catholic Voice to more than 70 Catholic schools and parish religious education programs and more than 7,000 students, is made possible by the support of sponsors who underwrite the costs associated with sharing this "good news" with the students.
Students and teachers show their appreciation through the continued involvement in the program, which began five years ago. And the Catholic Voice staff joins in offering our thanks to the Catholic Voice in the Classroom sponsors, including the Knights of Columbus Nebraska State Council; Creighton University, U.S. Bank and Woodhouse Auto Family, all of Omaha; and AC Lightning Protection Inc. of West Point.
Deacon Randy Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.