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Yikes! In our neck of the woods it is hard to imagine that winter could ever be on its way. The last couple of days have been truly oppressive humidity-wise and I have been praying for our elderly and anyone who needs to be working outside. I have been especially concerned about our Amish neighbors who have been working in the fields in pants and even long-sleeve shirts, in some cases.
Today, an older Amish gentleman appeared downright miserable as he guided his team of horses out onto the road after harvesting one of the fields. I prayed he was heading home for cold water and a break!
The Amish faith has been always been a bit of a mystery to me. We live among these "Plain" people (as they call themselves) every day and have gotten to know them well. We work with them, talk to them daily and our kids play with some of theirs. (Not all are allowed to play with "Yankee" or "English" kids.)
We have begun to get a pretty good idea about how they live, but their faith beliefs still elude me. I think that this is because their beliefs elude most of them as well, at least in our local sect!
About 5 years or so after we moved into Amish country, we befriended one of our neighbors down the road. He and his wife were surprisingly open to talking about their faith, far more than anyone else we had encountered. However, in their openness, we found ourselves genuinely stunned to learn just how little they actually knew about their own beliefs. Giving us full freedom to ask questions, their consistent response was that they didn't know why they did what they did; all they knew was that they were required to do it and that it would be a sin if they did otherwise.
(Interestingly, in our local sect most of these "sins" are allowed to be explored during their period of Rumspringa, which means "running around." During this time adolescents are allowed to gain experience of the outside world so that they can make an informed decision to remain Amish as an adult.)
Our conversations were actually exciting ones as we began to dig deeper into discussing the Christian faith. We did hit a bit of a roadblock when trying to discuss the Eucharist, however. This was quite the foreign concept to them! We wisely retreated to some more tangible topics that allowed the seeds to be continually planted.
A few years later, they moved and we lost touch. Then the difficult news came to us through the grapevine from our other neighbors: our friends had left the Amish and joined a Christian church. What a strange position to be in! I lamented for the great loss felt in our community of Amish, and yet I rejoiced for our friends.
Just recently, we received a surprise: a quick visit from these fallen-away Amish! How great it was to see them! Leaving the Amish had been a HUGE struggle and had produced an incredible learning curve. However, the husband and father of 5 was driving a mini-van (a rental as they are recovering from a couple of fender-benders) and all were wearing "Yankee" clothes. Despite their joy at leaving the Amish, though, they are still deeply saddened by the heartache they have caused their families. Relations are still very strained.
Hearing their struggles prompted me to think of the early Christians and those Christians around the world who have to decide between their families and Christ daily. Obviously, it is not quite the same in this case. The Amish do certainly follow Christ. And, so many of the ways in which they follow Him are good and wise ways. In fact, we would do well to imitate their ability to forgive and make such great effort to love their neighbor. But, many rules are very difficult and come without explanation, squelching the greater joy awaiting them in His grace.
As Catholics today, we are encouraged by the Church to pursue knowledge of our faith. We are asked to question, to not be afraid of the "why's" in regards to learning. In the Church's wisdom, we know now that questioning and being open to the truth as to why we are taught what we believe is the only way that we can deepen our relationship with God and develop that profound passion that creates saints.
I am so happy to live in such a day to have easy access to such incredible, deep, thought provoking answers! I pray so fervently that more and more people will look for the TRUTH about their faith and listen with an honest and open heart and mind to what the Church says.
For now, I will continue to try to discuss Christianity with our Amish brothers and sisters, at least with those open to conversation. Such dialogue is crucial to someday restoring the unity that Our Lord so fervently desires for His people. I look forward to it; I learn more and more about myself through each discussion and come away hoping that with the Holy Spirit's help enlightenment may have come their way as well.
Thank You, Lord, for being with us through Your Church!!
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