Recently, during a long taxi ride from Los Angeles airport I had a memorable conversation with the driver, a Muslim from Afghanistan. After the usual mundane topics, we started discussing what makes for a good clergyman, then discussed confession, repentance, forgiveness and freedom.
It was wonderful to hear him talk about staying close to God, and of his need for prayer in his pursuit of freedom of heart (his often-failing struggle to become free from habits of sin, even small ones) through the help of God. This was particularly striking because a week before this, I had dinner with a public figure with whom I discussed the impact of marriage on the nation and especially on the economy. I think the taxi-man knew more about the nature of personal freedom to do the good desired (the lack of which stifles and even kills many marriages) than did this great defender of economic freedom, who confines freedom to the level of politics.
The taximan said the clergy should not be hypocrites, complaining that some (his own religion included) destroy their effectiveness and do more harm than good. He wished they would step aside for someone authentic and said young adults making life choices about God and religion need good folk to imitate. Good clergy are essential, he said, if the millennial generation are ever to be prayerful. They are not inclined to put up with hypocrites.
This led to the nature of personal reform and the benefit of confessing one’s sins. He understood Catholic confession and, marveling at the “seal of confession”, got right to the heart of it when he said that “a change of heart” (repentance) is the sine qua non of a good confession. Thus, he identified a universal that applies to this sacrament: the intention not to sin again.
This whole taxi experience reminded me of a passage in a ‘walking the Bible narrative’ where the young Jewish author spoke of an exchange with a Muslim woman in a bazaar in Egypt. He asked her what was the most important lesson life had taught her. Her instantaneous response was “the power of prayer.”
Speaking of prayer: Our Managing Editor (who, among many things has also been the builder of Marripedia and the MARRI website) is starting on the road of life-long prayer and penance: she is entering Mount Carmel, an order of contemplative nuns. MARRI is guaranteed prayers! Pray that she be a holy nun. May her prayers help us on the outside.
[We will resume Faith and Family Facts in the second week of the New Year.]