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“Ask a Priest: Is It Better to Be Muslim Than Alone?”
Q: I have a dilemma. I am the only person in my social group and workplace that still believes in God, and I struggle with the loneliness of this. In my country (Netherlands) fewer than a quarter of the people call themselves Christian anymore, and even of those most don’t believe that God is actively intervening in our world or that Jesus was sent by God. My pastor says that heaven is a just metaphor and does not actually exist after death. Only the Muslim community seems to have true, though misguided, faith in God. How should I profess my faith without the fear of being ridiculed by my family, friends and colleagues? I work in a hospital, and the only other colleagues I know of who are religious are Muslim. I do get quite some support of them and share many of their morals. But despite this I still feel lonely in my own religion. Do you think Christianity will ever return here? According to the imam in the new mosque here, Islam names the Lord Jesus a prophet of God. Is it better to join a community that has at least a true faith in God, though it differs in some ways from my own, than to be alone in my faith? –T.U.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It must be difficult to live in a country that was once so religious but has become so secular. It sounds as if secularism has affected your pastor, too.
The best thing you can do is to stay focused on Christ and what he is asking of you. He is the Son of God, our savior and redeemer. With all due respect to our Muslim brothers, we believe Jesus is not just a prophet: He is the messiah, God made man. He founded the Church and left us the sacraments.
A good first step is to focus on your prayer life and your sacramental life. It might help to look around for a good confessor. There have to be some good parishes in the Netherlands. You might consider using social media to find other faithful Catholics with whom you can build some sense of community, even if you can only keep in contact by e-mail and prayer. This is better than nothing.
At your work-place try to live the Gospel as much as possible, through your acts of charity, your witness of pausing for prayer and, if possible, by posting or wearing some sign of your Catholic faith.
Try to find common ground with your Muslim companions. You can do this by mutually encouraging one another to put God first in your lives. Beyond that, be realistic: It isn’t easy to find common ground on a lot of religious issues. Islam has a very different outlook on God and Christ, and there is no way to reconcile our beliefs with theirs.
Still, you and they probably have things in common. So try to build on those.
It might help to do the monthly retreats we offer at RC Spirituality.
Will Christianity return to the Netherlands? The faith has a way of rising from the ashes. Possibly the problems of recent years will give people a reason to look at Christianity again. God alone knows what the future will bring.
The important thing for you, though, is not to give up on the Catholic faith. It still teaches the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. And Christ has promised heaven to those who are faithful to him.
In the short term, God doesn’t call us to be successful; he calls us to be faithful. Your fidelity means something to Christ. Your fidelity can help sow the seeds for a revival of the faith in Europe.
Since you interact a lot with Muslims, it might be helpful to understand more about Islam. A book that might help is 111 Questions on Islam. I hope some of this helps.