Intro to Nostra Aetate
Introduction to Nostra Aetate
Religious Pluralism and the Campus Community:
The Lived Experience of Nostra Aetate
Vatican Council II was the 21st and most recent ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. This conference of the Church's world leaders ran from 1962-1965 and addressed the Church's vision of its mission in the modern world. It resulted in 16 central documents; one was "The Declaration on the Relation of the Catholic Church with Non-Christian Religions." It is titled: Nostra Aetate, which is Latin for "In Our Time" or "In Our Age". Nostra Aetate includes statements on:
- the unity of all peoples
- the will of the Catholic Church to accept other religions and shared tenets
- the commonalities of Islam with Christianity and Catholicism as well as the bond that ties Christians to Jews
- the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaborations to promote social justice and peace, and
- the denunciation of discriminations.
The spirit of the Declaration pervades Jesuit Catholic education today.
In October 2013, Fr. General Adolfo Nicholas came to the US and spoke to the presidents and board chairs of the Jesuit colleges and universities across the country. What he said, in essence, was that these schools needed to be about the business of conversion; by which he did not mean converting Buddhists, Muslims or Presbyterians to Catholics. Instead, what he envisioned was that the schools would convert Presbyterians, Buddhists, Muslims and Catholics to their own humanity. I think that is what Catholic education calls us to:
- this deep, deep conversion to our own greatest humanity
- the place where we meet God inside
- the place where we meet God in others, and
- going forth into the world as disciples, then, to do something big and important that points towards the kingdom.
Xavier Trustee and Rector:
At Xavier, our way of living the Jesuit Catholic tradition in the 21st century is outlined in the University's "Seeking Integration and Wisdom" document. A portion reflecting Nostra Aetate reads-
Xavier strives to be welcoming of all persons, inclusive of those who adhere to other religious traditions, humanist traditions, or no formal religious tradition at all. The desire for unity with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters is rooted in the biblical revelation of God, whose love and grace embraces all persons, each created in the divine image, without exception.
Our Jesuit campus, aligned with Ignatian spirituality, embraces the expression of diversity in religious experiences and cultural beliefs as portraits of life, where God exists and waits for us to visit. For us at Xavier, the crisscross of cultures inspires us to accept the challenge of true understanding from the perspective of another person - a challenge that asks us to open our hearts and minds to open dialogue and unfamiliar experiences with a generous spirit and a curious mind.
Having students of various faith traditions in my classes helps me understand different perspectives on life. Through these experiences, I have realized that just because beliefs may be different, many other commonalities can still be shared-- differences can often unite us.
Religious pluralism is good for my learning because it enables me to realize I am no different from my classroom colleagues. Most importantly, it opens me up to the world and allows me to apply Jesuit teachings to my life.
For us to engage each other in inter-religious ways is to prepare our students to move out into a world where such skills are really going to be in great, great demand. In my experience, people from other religious traditions living out their traditions well and faithfully inspires me/us to live out as well and faithfully as we can, my/our traditions.