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Monica Doumit: Finding friends through faith

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What stuck out for Monica Doumit about Baltimore was the instant warm reception she received by other Catholics. Photo: Unsplash.com
What stuck out for Monica Doumit about Baltimore was the instant warm reception she received by other Catholics. Photo: Unsplash.com

It’s hard to think of a better greeting than having someone you just met tell you they have been praying for you.

I have spent the past few days at a Catholic media conference in Baltimore in the United States, and on the first night, joined a table of other conference participants at the bar. A colleague had introduced me as being on the “front line” of some of the major public policy battles Australia had faced in recent years.

Jim, a Canadian, leant over and shook my hand and told me that as he watched some of what has been going on in Australia in terms of life issues and religious freedom, he would often lift those involved in these battles up in prayer. It was a good start to a several wonderful days of sharing ideas and comparing battle-scars.

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I’m here in the US mainly at the invitation of Catholic Answers, a US-based Catholic media organisation that does wonderful work in evangelisation over a variety of media platforms, including books and journals, radio, podcasts and video.

I’ll be joining them in their studios next week and offering a handful of public talks on what is happening in Australia. I took the opportunity of being on this side of the world to also attend the Catholic media conference, catch up with some old friends and hopefully make some new ones.

I hope to write more about my time with Catholic Answers in next week’s column, but I wanted to share some thoughts about the trip so far.

The thing that has stuck out most to me during my time in the US, not only in Baltimore but in the other cities I have visited, is the instantly warm reception I have received by other Catholics, even if I had never met them before.

“You’re Catholic? Let me buy you a coffee.”

“You’re Catholic? I was ordained two days ago. Let me give you a first blessing.”

“You’re from the Archdiocese of Sydney? I’m a big fan of your Archbishop, let me take you to lunch.”

That’s happened three times so far. Thanks, Archbishop Anthony.

Monica Doumit says "...we look for similarities first and identify ourselves as a brother or sister in Christ. Everything else is unimportant." Photo: Unsplash.com
Monica Doumit says “…we look for similarities first and identify ourselves as a brother or sister in Christ. Everything else is unimportant.” Photo: Unsplash.com

I’m only halfway through my trip, but I have received such generous hospitality from so many people whose only connection to me is our common faith in Jesus Christ and a love for his church.

From Washington DC to Baltimore to Boston to New York to San Diego, the “Catholic network” has made me feel very much at home.

While I’m not really surprised by this, I wanted to mention it because so often, we can be so focused on the divisions within the Church that we can lose sight of the much unity that is far greater than anything that divides us.

Perhaps it is something about being away. At home, when we meet a fellow Catholic, we can be tempted to find out if they are “like us.”

We make judgments based on the parish they attend and how often, their views on a variety of issues in contention inside and outside the church, the clergy and commentators they listen to most and more.

In other words, we look for the differences first and identify ourselves by our theology or liturgical preferences.

When abroad and away from family and friends, we find any reason at all to connect. You’ll meet someone at a conference or at Mass while on holidays, and be treated as if you’ve known them all your life.

Striking up a warm conversation with the Uber driver who has a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror seems easy while overseas.

Indeed, even the smallest indication of Catholic faith is a sign that someone is a “friendly.”

In this case, we look for similarities first and identify ourselves as a brother or sister in Christ. Everything else is unimportant.

Being away from home—even if only for a few weeks—has really allowed me to appreciate the universality of the church and the living, breathing communion of saints. What a grace this is. Thanks be to God.

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