In his hotel room the other day, my brother caught the morning news story on TV about Pittsburgh's new bishop, David Zubik, and how he was flying into town from Green Bay. Bill idly wondered how the bishop was traveling there as he waited for his own flight to Pittsburgh. When he boarded the plane and took his seat, he immediately recognized the man next to him and said, "You're Pittsburgh's new bishop, aren't you?" That acknowledgement sparked a conversation that lasted most of their flight. Bill told me the bishop said a couple of times, "I don't know if you're Catholic..." and my brother kind of sidestepped the question. As they talked of spiritual matters Bill said that he'd be praying for the new bishop, that he would be a blessing to all those he's going to serve in his new role. And then finally in answer to a direct question he said no, he's not Catholic, he's a Tibetan Buddhist. The bishop raised his eyebrows. "Really?" My brother went on to explain that it wasn't that he didn't believe in Christ, it's just that the Christian church hadn't seemed very spiritual to him, but only a place where one put in their time on Sundays. Bill spoke about his practice of meditating an hour each night, and Bishop Zubik was surprised that he devoted that much time each day to his spiritual practice.
My brother told me later that he felt so honored to have been seated next to a man who has devoted his whole life to his faith. At the end of their time together the bishop said, "I think God had a purpose for seating us together today." My brother thinks so too. The Buddhist will be praying for the bishop, and vice versa I think.
I'll be remembering the reverence my brother had for his conversation with a man, and how it didn't matter at all to him that they followed different faiths. His respect was for another human being who has devoted his life to following God and serving others. God bless them both, and may I see the lesson in the mutual respect these two men on different spiritual journeys gave each other.