One of my friends really wanted our support group to be "a presence" at the recent Christian Home Educator's Conference. The conference is primarily fundamentalist Christian in nature and there is not a big presence from even the other more liturgical Christians. So our support group was going to have a little booth to sell used curriculum items, but to also be the silent prayerful presence representing Catholic Christians at the convention.
We were very busy in the booth on Friday and Saturday with lots of people coming in to look and buy books and to speak with my husband who also had information about his used musical instruments. But during a lull a nice woman came into the booth to address me.
"Are you having a good time? Is everyone being nice to you?"
Very sincere questions and I assured her that I was having a very nice time and that people had been great.
"OH that's good. When I saw your booth I was a little afraid that some people might not have been as nice. A lot of people don't think of Catholics as Christians."
...looking around quickly for my friend let me know quickly that I was going to be on my own for this one. The question was, what hat would I be putting on? Apologist or teacher? Long time readers of this blog will know that I have dabbled in apologetics from time to time as well as teaching, but I don't run into very much on a face-to-face basis.
But as we talked it turned out that I would be using my listening and compassion skill sets instead. This nice lady had been raised in a typical "American" household. Her family attended Catholic church for Christmas and Easter, but didn't really live their faith outside of that.
However, when she and her brother came of age they both found a deep and profound need to be closer to God and to live a Christian lifestyle. The twist was that she followed her path away from the Church and he followed his path more deeply into it.
Apparently at first there were not a lot of problems. They had their differences but still loved each other as brother and sister. Their families even started homeschooling together and this lady was very close to her sister-in-law. But as her brother started to get deeper into Catholicism, there started to be quibbles and challenges. My new acquaintance found herself trying to stay silent and to not initiate. Apparently as the kids got older they even tried to "start something" like wearing this T-shirt to a family function.
But what really broke her heart was that her brother insisted that the two homeschooling sisters-in-law stay apart and not share their homeschooling.
I think she was coming to me then to ask if this was right? is this what the Catholic church really teaches? Was the way her brother was living the faith the way "true" Catholics were to act - by shunning and hurting their families?
We talked for about 30 minutes. There were times in that great vendors hall that I felt we were the only two people in the room. I told her about my best friend, and Gabe's godmother, who is an African American Gospel Bible Christian, and about all of my Church of the Brethren relatives including my great-great aunts that I see once a year. I shared that if she had been my sister, we would still be good friends.
She told me her brother was coming in to see her child graduate in the homeschool convention ceremony the next day, I told her that I thought that was a hopeful sign and I told her I would pray that they could reconcile and find some loving common ground. And then we hugged. We both had opportunities to say, "I think you're wrong," but it was almost as an aside as in, "Thanks for listening, but I still think you're wrong," and that was okay.
The next day we saw each other to smile and wave. She was wearing a lovely dress and was obviously excited for the big graduation ceremony at the end of the day. I hope she and her brother are able to be "family" to each other despite their doctrinal differences. I think she will be on my mind and in my prayers for some time to come.