Awkward interfaith friendship - advice?

One woman (from my mom’s generation) has been pursuing a friendship with me for probably 4 or 5 years. We wouldn’t be friends if she hadn’t been so diligent; we are both blonde Christian women in the same neighborhood but that is where the similarity ends. We became an even odder couple when I converted to Catholicism. (She adores the Left Behind Series and I pray to Mary…maybe that is description enough. :D)

She is very supportive of wherever my path may lie in life, but she is against the Catholic Church. Not anti-Catholic, just firmly not-Catholic. From what I understand, she does not know much about Catholicism beyond what she learned in Catholic school, and part of that is bad metaphors. It is difficult for me to talk to her because it seems like the subject she wants to bring up is too superficial, and I would need to address the foundations that her beliefs are founded on, and I can’t really go there without the conversation getting a little emotional, plus I’m not sure how to not insult her. I’m really bad at talking about religion with her because I am shy, tired, and, I think, cowed by the natural superiority of her age and experience. (Yes I just said that…yes, it sounds lame. But there it is.) I think I know better 'cause I’m right, but she thinks she knows even better than that 'cause she’s older and teaches bible studies.

Any advice on how to handle an interfaith/intergenerational friendship? How can we be honest without becoming emotional? What is, and isn’t, appropriate to say and not say?

View it as a long term investment.

Please be as accepting of her worldview as you can be.

Correct her charitably if she directly attacks the Church, but otherwise view discussions with her as an opportunity to deepen your faith and understanding of Catholicism.

If you find her swaying you away from the faith, you must distance yourself from her. Likewise, don’t feel like you need to pull her away from that which she clings to.

The Holy Spirit works in His own time. Give Him the chance to speak through you.

I’m fond of the Socratic method as a fallback. Answer the tough questions in the form of a question, so that it’s her, and not you, that is doing the harsh thinking. Make her challenge herself.

You: I pray to Mary for intercession

Scary blonde lady: Why would you pray to Mary when you can pray to God?

You: Don’t you believe that God’s creation is all a family?

Scary blonde lady with towering posture: Sure I do, but God is the one that’s in charge and has the power.

You: But don’t you believe that God graces us to be used as instruments of carrying out His will in the world?

Scary blonde lady with towering posture and intimidating age superiority: Sure I do…


I don’t think there’s a silver bullet method to making politics or religion a comfortable subject. It’s a very scratchy subject and there’s nothing you can do about it. You get more comfortable with that through experience. Just be charitable and if you don’t know an answer, don’t pretend to know it.

Who brings up religion and your Catholic faith, you or her? If it is you, then i would probably not bring it up and let it be. If it is her and she is bringing up the usual platitudes and arguments, tell her that you wish at this time not to discuss your differences with her or even why you joined because the conversation seems to go out of hand and into emotions. Tell her that for right now and at this time, you would like her not to bring up religiona and desire to keep the friendship cordial and quaint.

Hi Their,
I am a long time revert to the Church. Please don’t be intimidated God could be calling you to learn more about your Catholic faith by reading some books on the subject, or even joining a Catholic bible yourself. I am in a inter faith Christian share group and my friends have been very supportive and helpful to me on my spiritual journey and at the same time I get to share with them the richness of our Church. Perhaps you could get her a good book on the Catholic faith.
Pray always

You might also consider that if her knowledge of the Catholic faith is from Catholic school, are these HER experiences or apocryphal stories she’s heard? If she attended Catholic school, perhaps she was originally Catholic herself, and is actually attracted to it and wants to discuss it in order to justify why she left (???) Also, it is unusual for a woman that much older to try to maintain a friendship with someone much younger, but not unheard of. One of my closest friends is 30 years younger than I. She has made me an honorary “grandparent” to her kids, and I treat them all as though they were actually my grandkids ! It was a gradual thing over a period of about 15 years that we became closer friends. She and her husband and their 4 year old were the only close friends that came with me to my husband’s funeral Mass.(I had no relatives to attend.) Now, she tells me I may take her youngest to Mass with me next year when he turns 7 years old. Neither she nor her husband were raised in any Church, and know little to nothing about Christ or Christianity. I once (rather jokingly) told her maybe this young son would become a Priest. To my surprise, she laughed and said that would be just fine with her !! Perhaps through this friendship and taking her youngest to Mass, the family will convert someday ! Who knows? It is certain that she is asking me questions occasionally about my Church and what Mass is like. The only Mass she ever saw was the Funeral Mass they attended for my husband, and she was apparently very impressed. So was her little boy, who had the biggest eyes – watching everything and very interested. He sat quietly, and never took his eyes off the Priest ! When I knelt during Mass, I had told her and her husband they could remain seated, but her little boy insisted on kneeling with me. I think now, the Lord has caused this friendship for a reason. I never bring up religion or my beliefs with her, but about once a month she’ll ask me a “casual” question about what I believe. So far, they have been basic, more simple questions, but they’re getting more serious. Perhaps the Lord is working in her heart now. I would remain open to the thought that perhaps He is also working on this lady’s heart as well.

You don’t need to feel intimidated, you have a very fine mind. You are thoughtful, intelligent, and aware of subtleties. You both love God, and feel passionate about it, so it is only natural that it could get emotional. It is important, but that doesn’t give us license to be rude. I sense you are a kind person, so that won’t be hard for you. Perhaps it is the challenges that she throws out, that hurt you? Don’t take it personal. She is only repeating the broken thinking that was taught to her. If you don’t know an answer, and she challenges you ie; “where is that in the Bible?” Simply say, “That is a good question.” I will look into that, and get back to you." This leaves the door open for you to address this at a later time when you have notes or Bible verses prepared.

Another good way to keep your calm is to ask questions. This makes her have to defend why she believes the way she does, so you are questioning her. You will gain insight into what she believes, why she believes it, what her fears may be… This information will help you focus your answer to the heart of her questions. It will help you to pin point areas of misunderstanding. When you say, “I pray to Mary.” She probably hears…that you “praise” Mary. Often in their services when some one says lets pray, they start “praising” God. When a Catholic says, “I pray to Mary.” We mean, we talk to her.

When ever possible agree with, and affirm what ever part of her statement that is true. If she states, “The Bible is the word of God. It’s the only thing you can trust!” You may say, “I love the Bible too! It’s so inspiring. Where did we get the Bible from? or How do you think this present day Bible came to be?”

I hope this is helpful. I’m working on answering challenges with out getting upset or hurt also. I suspect it will be a long journey! :slight_smile:

Wow! Thanks, everyone, for your replies. I don’t have much time to respond at the moment, but I thought I’d mention a couple of things.

Firstly: TK421, you’re hilarious. :clapping:

She is the one who brings it up. I’m on the “live-and-let-live” side of the spectrum right now; if someone brings it up, I’ll try to talk to them about it, but if they don’t then I don’t.

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