World Notes & Quotes

Father Abraham Had Many Sons

Jewish, Muslim, and Christian believers have one man in common: Abraham. So said Roman Catholic theologian, Father Karl-Josef Kuschel of the University of Tubingen, Germany, when he addressed the Academy for Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at its 20th anniversary this month, as reported in the Nov. 15 Los Angeles Times.

Father Kuschel “sees the patriarch Abraham is the linchpin of three religions, because his two sons, Isaac by Sarah and Ishmael by Hagar, are the ancestors of Jews, Christians (Isaac), and Muslims (Ishmael). If the religions recognized the commonality of origin, a different climate could result. This openness, Kuschel said, might influence political leaders. This was certainly true of Anwar Sadat, who spoke of the Abraham connection in his famous speech to the Israeli Knesset in 1977 that launched the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations,” the newspaper reported.

Benjamin Hubbard of Cal-State Fullerton suggested three ways this common ground could be established more firmly: (1) Conduct “an interfaith prayer service on special occasions at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, using a still-to-be written prayer book drawing on the writings of interfaith scholars"-perhaps at the time of Easter, Passover, and ‘Id al-Adha', which coincide, or Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan. (2) Dialogue between the three faiths wherever they are represented in large communities. (3) More emphatic calls to mutual understanding by the leaders of the three monotheistic faiths.

November Important to Vietnamese Catholics

Asian Catholics, particularly the Vietnamese, celebrate November-which the Church devotes to remembering the dead-in a particularly intense way, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from Sunday, Nov. 16, 1997.

“November devotions … blend naturally with the traditional Buddhist and Confucian practices of honoring ancestors,” writes Mary Beth McCauley. “Catholics call this, ‘the communion of saints,' a union of the living and the dead, those in heaven and those on their way there, all of whom share prayer, good works, communication, and ultimately, the love of Christ.…”

“Vietnamese Sister Cecilia Trung Hieu Tong called the month of the holy souls a time of ‘great honor of our ancestors. We believe that we live in a spiritual world,'” where we are very close to the dead, she said, according to the article.

Common devotions of Vietnamese Catholics are adding the names of deceased loved ones to the prayers of the faithful, bringing flowers to Church, saying the rosary, and arranging to have Mass said in homes.

“Every evening throughout the year … many Vietnamese pray at an altar in the family's living room. Such altars are commonplace among Catholic and non-Catholic Vietnamese, and imitate at home the setting of the Buddhist temple.… Altars of non-Catholics tend to be divided in half, with one side devoted to God and the other to ancestors.… Catholics devote the entire altar to God, but keep pictures of ancestors nearby.”

Some 20% of Vietnamese in America are Catholics, according to an estimate quoted in the article.