It's Not Difficult: A Catholic-Buddhist Union
By Patheos Team
As part of the Patheos Public Square on Interfaith Marriage, we invited several interfaith couples to share their personal stories with us. Here, Peter and Onko, a Catholic and a Buddhist who met in college at Jacksonville University, discuss the joys and challenges of being married to someone of another faith.
Did you have initial concerns about dating someone of a different faith?
Peter: No, it never bothered me.
Onko: No, was never a consideration.
How did your families respond?
Peter: My siblings loved her and my mother accepted her right away; my dad took his time but once he met her he was sure.
Onko: My brother liked him; my mom did not accept him until 2008, and we had been together since 2001. My dad liked him when he met him for the first time, but had reservations about us getting married, only because we were "too young."
Did you come from an interfaith marriage?
Peter: No, both my parents are Catholic. My uncle is a priest.
Onko: No, both my parents are Buddhist.
What are the joys and challenges of an interfaith marriage?
Our wedding was a logistical nightmare. We did a non-denomination Christian / Thai combo wedding. But the ceremony was beautiful and everyone had a great time. Holidays were a little awkward for us -- Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving. We split Christmas and New Year's -- Christmas with Peter's family and New Year's with Onko's.
How do you make decisions about where and how to worship?
Peter: I go when I feel like it, but I don't take Onko with me.
Onko: I don't go regularly because I am so far from a temple. We both feel awkward going into each other's house of worship.
Peter: I won't bow to the Buddha but I will remove my shoes and maintain a respectful silence.
Onko: I won't make the sign of the cross, or take communion, or touch the holy water in the church, but I maintain a respectful silence.
How have your respective faith communities embraced (or not) your decision?
Peter: I almost punched a preacher in the face because he criticized my wife and her faith, and denounced our union. Most people have more sense.
Onko: Monks generally are neutral, but all faiths are accepted.
Where do you notice your faith "difference" the most?
Onko: Peter will talk more openly about his faith or anyone else's faith.
Peter: Onko will not be so open. Also Buddhism is more of a way of thinking than a religion, and Onko has had bad experiences in religious discussions in the past. The least? We both rely on our faith in times of stress and difficulty and thanks.
How did you blend your religious rituals and customs in your wedding?
We did an outdoor Christian traditional ceremony, and included Thai traditional wedding garlands for the bride and groom. We also did three significant but simple parts of the traditional Thai / Buddhist wedding. We included the pouring of water over the hands of the bride and groom by the families and guests, as well as binding the bride's and groom's wrists and heads with a special string and lighting incense.
Have your basic beliefs regarding matters of faith changed since marriage?
Onko: No, I still believe what I believed before I met him.
Peter: I have been more open and explored the deeper meanings of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, and I've come to the conclusion that I am at the basic level an Abrahamic monotheist. (I worship the God of Abraham and I believe that there is no God but God.) I go further in that I'm Christian in the way I pray and I believe in trying to follow Christ as closely as humanly possible -- kindness to all, forgiveness of transgressions, generosity, love of God, and honoring God in all you do. Have faith in God's will and plan. Those are the major lessons I've found that run true.
Do you feel your partner supports you in your faith journey?
And on the other side of the coin, do you feel pressured by your partner to conform to his/her faith?
What other wisdom would you like to share from your experience in an interfaith marriage?
It's not difficult, just communicate clearly, and settle the questions about children, holidays, conversion, and religious obligations early. Putting those off can harm your relationship. Sometimes it's good to at least go and see what it is.
Read more interviews with interfaith couples here.
Visit the Public Square on Interfaith Marriage here.