I’m taking a world religion class this semester, and we are required to go to a different type of religion outside of what we were raised in. I decided to go and see what the Scientology building on Delmar was all about. I brought my best friend with me, because naturally, I was a little scared to go to someplace I had never been before. I found it to be quite interesting and everyone was fairly nice to us while we were there. I grew up Catholic my entire life; I went to a private grade school and high school, so I’ve never really been exposed to any other type of religion before. After going, I can walk away saying I explored somewhere new, and I’m happy I went!
How many ways can my daughter, Emily, amaze me. This week while watching the Big Bang Theory she said, “wow, look at their dry erase board. They are working on the same chemistry problems that I’m doing. Let’s see if it looks like they are figuring out sulfur…”. At this point I have to admit my mind went numb and all I could do is laugh. I told her how awesome God had made her and smart. Emily is planning to go to dental school once she graduates from high school next year. What a blessing that she has always done well in math and science classes.
And is that not true of all of us? God made all of us with certain strengths that are amazing. I know that since kindergarten I wanted to be a teacher and have worked in the education field every since leaving college the first time. I prayed for years that if it was God’s will to help me get back into college and to guide my path to be an educator. I know that I had a pastor years ago that told me that I was gifted by God for working with kids. I have always remembered that.
Throughout, the years I was involved in teaching preschool, working daycare, being a substitute teacher, and finally a paraprofessional. As, a paraprofessional, I work with high students. This is an ideal job for a girl without a degree that wanted to be a high school english teacher. Many times I’ve had students ask me why I didn’t teach because I helped them with their assignments and knew about literature, writing, history, etc. My answer was always the same that I left college and always wanted to go back but now I didn’t want to be the old lady in the class.
When I learned about the Pathways program at Fontbonne it seemed like a answer to prayer. I could go back to school to fulfill my dream of being a teacher. The bonus was that a majority of the classes I would need were online- ahh, not having to be the old lady in the class was just icing on the cupcake.
I’m sure that everyone has their own path that God guides. If you are lucky God gives you the path, the talent and the capability of knowing it. It took me a few years to find mine. I pray that all of you find your path too and listen and know what gifts God has gave you to share with the world.
p.s. For those of you that have read my previous blogs about my health I wanted to update you. I’ve had my surgery and am recovering. It has not been an easy recovery and I still have four weeks left. I’m praying that God ease my pain and help me to be still and rest and recover.
So, I’m Baha’i.
The Baha’i faith is a major world religion with believers in more than 200 countries and territories. It was founded in Persia in Bahá’u’lláh in the mid 1800’s. This faith emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind, believing all religions worship the same God, men and women are equal, and science and religion agree and must both develop equally for the advancement of human wisdom. There’s a lot more to it than this, of course, but it is a beautiful, universal, welcoming faith, and I encourage you to learn more about it.
Anyway, the Baha’is have a period of fasting, similar to Ramadan in the Islamic faith. It’s 19 days, from March 2nd until March 21st (ending right before Spring Break!) During this period of fasting, Baha’is abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Not everyone has to fast, of course—pregnant or nursing women, elderly people and young children, people who are sick, people who are traveling, and those who engage in heavy labor are exempt—but it is seen as a wonderful opportunity. It’s been described as “an annual renewal of faith” and “an invigoration, an annual cleansing.” It is a time of prayer and meditation, where we focus ourselves on God instead of selfish and carnal desires.
I’m excited about this time, but I expect it will be difficult. It will mean careful planning to make sure I still have a healthy diet; it will mean a dedicated focus to get through tennis practices and classes on no food or water. I’m looking forward to this challenge, to this opportunity to demonstrate love and devotion to God. If I should fail, and find that I cannot keep up with my duties while fasting, I won’t feel regret. I’d rather try for God, knowing he loves and forgives all I do.
I would have to say that my favorite professor would have to be Stephen Stopke. He is a religion teacher and he teaches a very wide range of religion. I am not a big fan on religion class just because I have taken them for 12 years straight and I have been in catholic schools all my life. But it was my sophomore year, and I was signed up for World Religions, I thought that this class was going to be the toughest out of all my class, little did I know, this was going to be my favorite classes.
It was my first day and he had a bag filled with papers and I thought I was done for. But as the semester went on, I started to really like this class. He was challenge us everyday about new religions that we have never heard of, and on top of that he would never tell us what his religion was. We would guess everyday and he would never tell us. He always brought something in for each religion to demonstrate to us. He was a very straight forward guy and had a great amount of enthusiasm about coming to class, which made it enjoyable for us. Stephen Stopke, best teacher at Fontbonne.
College is all about experiences that help you grow as an individual, that broaden your horizons and provide you with an expanded mental landscape that helps you process the world better than ever before. … Right?
So, I’ve started attending Disciples, Fontbonne’s weekly faith-sharing group. They meet Tuesday nights in the Interfaith Chapel, in Medaille, at 8:30 pm, and usually go to around 10. For people with time commitments and early bedtimes, this can be a little bit of an issue, but I thought that the commitment to this group would be worthwhile if it helped me explore my faith.
Before I continue, I need to elaborate on “my faith”. I am a Baha’i. To explain that briefly, the Baha’i faith essentially is the next step in a ‘religious series’ which begins with Hinduism and continues through Islam. Describing it this way is important, because part of the Baha’i faith is the belief that all the great world religions worship the exact same God, and were led by prophets that God sent down who taught religion in a way that made sense at the time given the current culture. So, for instance, not only are Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed all prophets of God, but so is Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, and Abraham. The Baha’i faith reaffirms the core values of each of these religions as important lessons from God, and promotes the unity of all religions and all people across Earth. There’s much more to the faith than this, of course, and I welcome you to investigate for yourself!
So, back to Disciples: I sometimes struggle with this faith-sharing group. I’ve come to realize that here at Fontbonne, “faith-sharing” does not mean “let’s talk about how you’re Muslim, and you’re Buddhist, and you’re Christian, and you’re Jewish.” It means “Let’s talk about how you’re Protestant and I’m Catholic.” I suppose I should’ve foreseen this, since the group is called “Disciples” and all, but nonetheless this is naturally a little frustrating for me. While we do discuss a lot of topics that aren’t necessarily “Christian-only” at Disciples, the way we think about issues—for instance, the meaning of beauty—ends up being through a Christian lens; we’ll look at Bibles for passages to help support our ideas, and only Bibles. The group is for Christians, and while I don’t feel rejected by any means, I also feel that I’m not understood because of my different beliefs.
But I’ll keep going to Disciples, because I like the group, because I like the people. Say what you will about Christianity (particularly about Catholicism), but the Baha’i view on it is that Jesus was an incredible teacher who brought a powerful message about Love to humanity, and so taking a little extra focus on that isn’t a bad thing. Everything else in Christianity besides the idea of love really is just irrelevant; if you can learn the love part, then everything else on ‘being a good person’ comes kind of naturally. I think Disciples can help further my understanding of love—and maybe yours. So, hey! If you’re free on a Tuesday between 8:30 and 10, swing by the Interfaith Chapel!
For more religious events on campus, check out campus ministry’s webpage!