Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 21, 2008

Islam and Catholic Dialogue

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic church has promoted dialogue with Muslims as logical and desirable. Catholicism and Islam are both monotheistic religions. Catholics and Muslims also each see the Old Testament as sacred texts. Clearly, however, there is an essential difference in the way Catholicism and Islam view Jesus. Muslims see Jesus as a prophet, second only to Muhammad. They do not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, and therefore, do not see the New Testament as a sacred text. In today's world there are many ways that Muslims and Catholics can fruitfully dialogue and collaborate to address mutual concerns about the world. Topics such as global poverty, systemetic prejudice, materialism, and care of the envioornment are topics that these two world religious should address in the light of faith.

As a point of interest, share the following story with your students about a football player who attended both a Catholic high school and Catholic university while practicing Islam:

Faith and Football at Notre Dame
Certainly the heading of this feature has been dissected before. Faith and football at Notre Dame have gone hand in hand since the famous Fighting Irish started playing college football in 1887.
As part of its Catholic tradition, Notre Dame players go to Mass before games. Just prior to processing from the chapel to the stadium, the players are given a religious medal, usually of a saint. Theology courses are also part of any student’s curriculum, including the curriculum of football players.
But during the 2002–2006 seasons, the faith and football connection took a new text. Ryan Harris, a 6’ 3pound offensive tackle from St. Paul, Minnesota, was not only an All-American player, but he was also a practicing Muslim. His parents, who had explored a few different religions themselves, allowed Ryan to make his own decision about which religion he would practice.
It was in an eighth grade social science course that Ryan’s interest in exploring Islam more closely was sparked. “At the time, I was searching for my beliefs and what I believe about God. I looked into it and decided that I believe in God, Jesus, Moses, and Abraham. And I believe that Muhammad brought the last message,” Harris said.
While at Notre Dame, Ryan took several classes in Arabic. “I speak Arabic just a little bit. I know the alphabet and I can give you some words I know from the mosque, but I could not carry on a conversation.”
Ryan was also very involved with his teammates in the local community, including volunteering to teach and coach football at a local Catholic parish and at the Boys and Girls club. Along with his teammates, he kept the Notre Dame tradition of attending Mass before games and receiving a religious medal.
“I go to Mass with the team. I feel very fortunate to be able to spend time with my teammates, especially time to relax and place God in my thoughts before a game. It makes me feel thankful for all the blessings I have received,” he says.
Ryan said that later in his life, he would like to make a hajj to the holy sites of Islam.

Extending the Lesson
Query the students about their friendships with those of other faiths. Is it indimidating or uncomfortable to be involved with people who think and pray differently? How so?

Read statements made by Pope John Paul II about Muslims and Catholicism.

The preceding material is taken from the high school textbook Exploring the Religions of Our World by Nancy Clemmons, SNJM.

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