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The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

The search for meaning in multiple faith traditions

On Mar. 21, Father Michael Holleran hosted a seminar in the Burke Lounge. During the event, Fr. Holleran described his journey to becoming a Catholic priest and Zen teacher, as well as his life-changing tenure as a Carthusian Monk. He now serves the parish of Corpus Christi and Notre Dame at Columbia University. By explaining his own journey, Fr. Holleran teaches students how to approach their faith and how to find purpose in a distracting world.  

Fr. Holleran describes careers, activities, and other passions as merely a “container” for our lives, an empty husk waiting to be completed. In order to fill our containers, we must seek meaning through faith. Contrary to traditional understandings of faith life, Fr. Holleran encourages students to find meaning in other faith traditions in tandem with the ones they are most committed to.  

In his own life, Fr. Holleran has seamlessly merged his history as a Catholic with Zen meditation, championing multiple faith traditions throughout his pursuits. Fr. Holleran summarizes this dynamic with an idea from world-renowned theologian Paul Knitter which is known as “double belonging”. In other words, it is possible to pursue multiple faith traditions without compromising commitments to one or the other. In fact, doing so has the potential to be more rewarding than practicing a single faith tradition alone.  

Fr. Holleran believes that faith journeys are motivated by turmoil. Although “turmoil” usually means suffering and hardship, it may also refer to questions of belonging: Who am I? What is my purpose? For Fr. Holleran, his search for meaning had guided him to The Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. By living at the monastery in both silence and solitude, Fr. Holleran was able to deeply and profoundly rediscover his surroundings.  

In order to experience the silent Word of God, we too must live in silence. We must also be awake. According to Fr. Holleran, “most of us sleepwalk through life”, and we miss signs of God’s presence within our lives. If we spend just a little more time in meditation and effortful reflection, then we may just catch a glimpse of the great beauty that surrounds us.  

Ultimately, Fr. Holleran’s seminar offers two crucial ideas for Iona students to reflect upon. First, the practice of putting meaningful distance between us and our devices, work, and entertainment offers a fulfilling experience of the things we take for granted. Second, we should be open to faith and lifestyle alternatives because differing (or perhaps contradictory) ways of life pour sacred fulfillment into our starving containers.  

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Adrian Vazquez
Adrian Vazquez, Assistant News Editor

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