We are Catholic. All are welcome.

Our diverse community of different faiths (Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and more) affords us with unique opportunities to learn more about the world from others as our Benedictine hallmarks call us to. Our Interfaith Prayer Room is located in Kindlon Hall 136/137 and is a space for prayer, meditation and contemplation. 

The following information is meant to give the Benedictine community background on our many faith communities, to promote greater understanding of religious needs and observances of our students, faculty and staff, and how the University works to provide an educational experience that is accepting and respectful to all.

Please click here to learn of upcoming religious holidays and celebrations. 

Buddhism

Buddhism is a nontheistic religion founded on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha. The purpose of one’s life is found in attaining enlightenment. Buddhism stresses the importance of self-awareness and virtuous living.

Important Terms

  • Gassho: To place one's hands together in reverence.
  • Osenko: To burn incense in offering to the Buddha.

Important Religious Texts

Sutras are the collected oral teachings of the Buddha.

Customs

There are three denominations within Buddhism and each focuses on a different aspect: right thought, right speech and right action. Buddhism as a whole emphasizes the reality of suffering in life and the ability to transcend suffering through enlightenment.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Central to the Buddhist tradition is meditation. It is through the simple act of meditation that one may achieve enlightenment. Buddhists occasionally gather at temples where the focus is either on silent meditation or teachings by a priest, monk or nun. Chanting and offerings of incense are also included in worship.

Ways to be Involved at BenU

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • HIST 281 Survey of East Asia
  • HIST 291 History of the Silk Road
  • IDS 303 Interfaith/Culture Dialogue
  • RELS 285  Religion in America
  • RELS 120  Eastern Traditions 

 

Catholic Christianity

Christianity dates back to the first century and is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christianity has three main branches of belief and practice: Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Christians worship one God as the Holy Trinity, consisting of the Father (creator of the universe), Jesus Christ (the savior of the world) and the Holy Spirit (which has worked to sanctify and transform lives throughout history and continues to do so today).

The Catholic Church has communities around the globe. Its governing center is Vatican City in Rome, Italy. The Pope is recognized as the leader of the Catholic Church. In addition to the Roman Catholic Church, there are many other Catholic Churches in “full communion” with Rome. Some smaller, independent Catholic Churches exist without recognizing the authority of the Pope.

Important Terms

  • God: “God” refers to a single, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal deity. God is triune, meaning that God is One in Three Persons without division or distinction. God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This belief is not meant to be grasped in a mathematical way, but contemplated through a lifetime. Like Jews and Muslims, Christians are of the Abrahamic tradition and worship the God who made a covenant with the ancient Hebrew people.
  • Christ: From the Greek Christos and Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed one.” A messiah is sent by God to bring the salvation of the people and Christians consider Jesus of Nazareth to be the ultimate messiah. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He made Heaven available and attainable for the faithful, bringing ultimate salvation in eternal life with God.
  • Mass: The sacred liturgy celebrated every day of the year (except Good Friday) with special emphasis on Sundays as the Sabbath. Mass consists of two parts: “The Liturgy of the Word,” where the scriptures are read and the people respond, and “The Liturgy of the Eucharist,” where the transubstantiation of bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus occurs and is distributed. Catholics are required to attend Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.
  • Eucharist: For Catholics, bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus through transfiguration at the “Liturgy of the Eucharist” within Mass. Communion is the central act of Christian worship.
  • Sacraments: Visible signs of God's grace in the world. Catholic Church, the seven sacraments are: Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and  Anointing of the Sick. 
  • Saints: People who have lived lives of heroic virtue. People with the title of “saint” have been beatified and canonized by the Catholic Church as examples of using your unique gifts to courageously serve God and others. Their feast days are celebrated on the anniversary of their deaths because that is when they joined God in Heaven. The Catholic Church also considers anyone in Heaven to be a saint.
  • Religious orders: Groups of men and/or women who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to serve the Church and others in a specific charism. For example, some orders are teachers, nurses, pastoral ministers or missionaries. Some are cloistered and devote themselves to prayer for the world.

Important Religious Texts

The Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The Catholic and Orthodox traditions also include seven apocryphal books.

  • The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible contains the Torah (The first five books, also called the Law, include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are the most important texts in Judaism.) histories, psalms and proverbs, poetry, prophets, and for Catholics and Orthodox, apocrypha.
  • The New Testament contains the Gospels, (The story of Jesus’ life. It includes Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) the Acts of the Apostles, epistles of disciples and one apocryphal writing.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: While not considered scripture or divinely inspired in the same way, the Catechism contains the entire listing of Catholic beliefs. It is structured around the creed, the sacraments, Christian life and prayer.

Customs

The life of the Catholic church revolves around the church calendar known as the Liturgical Calendar. The seasons are: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Triduum, and Easter. They ranger from three days to several months in length. Many other customs are unique to the geographical area and ethnic background of the people celebrating. 

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Christians traditionally gather to worship in churches on Sundays. See Mass above.

There are countless written prayers and forms of prayer in Catholicism. The most common written prayers are “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be” and “The Rosary,” which contains all three and more. Prayer can also be exercised in meditation, or contemplation, with scripture or music, in the presence of the Eucharist, in ritual, with others or alone, and in any space.

A common prayer is the “Liturgy of the Hours,” created as a way to pray the Psalms at specific, different times during the day. Most religious orders pray the Liturgy of the Hours together.

Catholic Social Teaching calls to serve each other and the less fortunate, and to work for just systems that end oppression. Many Catholics volunteer on a regular basis with an organization or do different projects with their faith groups. The seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching are:

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person
  • Call to Family, Community and Participation
  • Rights and Responsibilities
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
  • Solidarity
  • Care for God’s Creation

Ways to be Involved at BenU

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • RELS 130  Abrahamic Faiths 
  • THEO 204  Catholic Spirituality 
  • THEO 104  Faith and Science
  • THEO 207 Catholic Social Teaching 
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace 

Hinduism

Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that believes in God as the one source, having numerous manifestations. As a divine being, God transcends every being and object, and one’s purpose in life is to become aware of the divine. Worship rituals and meditative practices within Hinduism are intended to lead the soul toward direct experience of God or self.

Important Terms

  • Samsara: Hindus believe that human beings are born into a recurring cycle of birth and rebirth.
  • Karma: The consequences of one’s actions determine one’s lot in future reincarnations.
  • Yogas: Four disciplines that compromise four paths to enlightenment, discerning the true nature of reality.
  • Dharma: Ethics and responsibilities in life.

Important Religious Texts

Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

Customs

Because of Hinduism’s emphasis on human beings having a right relationship with the world around them, many Hindus are vegetarian. Food is categorized as sattvic (pure food, such as fruits, vegetables and milk), rajasic food (heavy, dark food, such as meats, spices and fried foods) and tamasic food (lethargic, slow food, such as alcoholic beverages). Cows and other animals are held as sacred and are not slaughtered for consumption.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Hindu temples are understood to be the residence of a particular god(s) or goddess(es). The main image of the deity is kept in the center of a small room (puja room) or in a mandir, where devotees are invited to worship the deity through prayer and offerings. Prayers include chanting mantras, meditation and sometimes yoga. The Interfaith Prayer Room at Benedictine University holds a mandir for Hindu students to use in prayer and meditation.

 

Ways to be Involved at BenU 

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • HIST 281 Survey of East Asia 
  • HIST 291 History of the Silk Road
  • IDS 303  Interfaith/Culture Dialogue
  • RELS 285  Religion in America 
  • RELS 120  Eastern Traditions 

Humanism

Atheists do not believe in any gods or the supernatural. Humanists emphasize the common humanity of all, placing moral values solely within the human realm and not the divine. Moral and social uplift occurs by the efforts of human beings.

Important Terms

  • Atheist: Does not believe in gods or the supernatural.
  • Humanist: Believes that this life is the only life we have and are skeptical of the supernatural or divine. Humanism involves a commitment to moral values and moral autonomy.
  • Agnostic: Believes that the existence of god(s) can neither be proven nor disproven.
  • Questioning/seeking: May have questions as to the existence of god(s), or may not believe in the existence of god(s) but have unresolved questions or conflicts.

Reflection and Practice

Though they do not believe in god(s) or the supernatural, those who identify as atheists or humanists sometimes will gather in community with one another for fellowship and discussion. In the Interfaith Prayer Room in Kindlon Hall, Room 136, a book of reflections and poems is available to students who do not identify with a religious tradition but would still benefit from a resource and space in which they can meditate and reflect.

Ways to be Involved at BenU 

Here are a few classes offered at  BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • IDS 303  Interfaith/Culture Dialogue
  • RELS 285 Religion in America 
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace

 

Islam

We encourage all Benedictine community members – students, staff and visitors – outside of the Islamic faith to review this information to help in our larger mission of promoting mutual respect and understanding for all religious groups represented on campus. 

This website serves as a primer on Islam, its traditions and sensitivities. Please note that it represents an overview of mainstream Islam only and that there may be other schools of thought or variations of details within the religion not mentioned here.

Important Terms

  • Halala - Zabiha Food: Pork products and alcohol consumption are forbidden for Muslims. Meat consumption in general has some restrictions and the limitations differ from one school of thought to another. 

Important Religious Texts

  • Qur'an: The Qur’an was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed verse by verse by the angel Gabriel and memorized verbatim by Mohammed’s companions. It was then compiled by the third Caliph Uthman into the version still in use to this day, which has been memorized cover to cover by hundreds of thousands of Muslims. 

Customs

  • Modesty: Muslims are required to cover their bodies and wear modest clothing. The exact type of dress is left to the individual and the culture in which Muslims live. Modesty is more than just clothing. Muslims should also be modest and humble in their actions and interactions.If a Muslim does not shake hands with you, do not take it personally. It is not a sign of disrespect. It is an acknowledgement of modesty.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

In Islam, there are Five Pillars. 

  • Testimony that there is no deity but God: There is no deity but God and Mohammed (peace be upon him) is the servant and the prophet of God. This testimony is called the Shahada.
  • Praying five times a day: Muslims pray five times a day – in the early morning, sometime around noon, in the afternoon, in the evening and at night. The timing of each prayer is based on the movement of the sun. Morning prayer must be before dawn, noon prayer around noon, afternoon prayer in the afternoon and before sunset, evening prayer after sunset and night prayer about one hour after the evening prayer. Noon prayers on Fridays are special for Muslims. Friday prayers must be observed in communion.Prayers must be done on a clean surface. The direction (or qibla) one must face while praying one of the five daily prayers is very important. It is based on the location of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest structure in Mecca, which is located in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Those observing a Muslim in prayer should be mindful to avoid talking to the person who is praying and not cross in front of them. The prayer itself can take a few minutes or more depending on the individual. The prayers do not have to be performed at an exact time. They can be done during a window of time. For instance, the period between some prayers may be as short as 1½ to two hours during the winter and can be as long as five hours during the summer. For this reason, Muslim students are advised to make plans ahead of time in order to accommodate their academic schedules and prayer obligations. Wudu (Ablution) occurs prayer, one engages in a ritualized cleansing. This includes washing of the face, hands and feet. 
  • Fasting in the month of Ramadan: According to the lunar calendar, Muslims must fast for one month during Ramadan, abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations. Because Ramadan and other Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendar (which is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar) most holidays start 11 days earlier each year than the year before.The fast starts before dawn and concludes at sunset. During the summer, fasting can be a challenge as the days are longer and hotter. Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast, is a time for fellowship and is often done among a community of friends and family. At the end of Ramadan, there is a three-day celebratory period called Eid ul-Fitr. During this time, Muslims are expected to visit their families, friends, elders and the sick. The first day is particularly important and is recommended for supervisors to give Muslims the day off work, as there is a special Eid prayer in the morning. The second celebration is called Eid ul-Adha, the “sacrifice celebration” where adult Muslims of means are expected to “sacrifice” an animal (a sheep, a goat, a cow, a camel, etc.) for God and share the meat with the poor, as well as their neighbors. In the United States, the sacrificial observance is actually conducted at slaughterhouses by trained professionals. The first day of the Eid is again important for Muslims for they observe a special prayer in the morning and observe the sacrificial responsibility. 
  • Giving Alms to the Needy: Muslims are required to dedicate a portion of their wealth to serve the needy. This amount is 2.5 percent of their annual savings after deducting for necessities such as housing, food and transportation.
  • The Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca): All Muslims who can afford to make Hajj (the Pilgrimage to Mecca) are obligated to do so once in their lifetime. They must visit Kaaba in Mecca, which is located in Saudi Arabia, and worship God by performing various rituals in different areas of Mecca. Hajj coincides with Eid ul-Adha. 

In Islam, there are six articles of faith know as "Iman." They are: 

  • Existence, Names and Oneness of Allah: Muslims believe in one unique God who created the whole universe. He has many attributes, 86 of which are mentioned in the holy book, the Qur’an. To name a few, He is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-compassionate, all-fair, all-wise, all-knowing, the all-creator, etc. He created the Prophet Adam as the first man and human, and then Eve as the first woman. 
  • Belief in Angels: Angels are created from light and they have no carnal self. They do not have free will like humans do, therefore they have absolute obedience to God. There are millions of angels. They do not have human needs like eating and drinking. They see us, but we do not see them unless God permits. They are not helpers of God, for God does not need help. God uses them as representatives of some orders in the eyes of humans. Four of the biggest known angels are Gabriel, the angel of revelation; Israfil, the angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day; Mikail, the angel responsible for distributing food among the creatures; and Azrael, the angel of death.
  • Belief in the Qu'ran: The Qur’an was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed verse by verse by the angel Gabriel and memorized verbatim by Mohammed’s companions. It was then compiled by the third Caliph Uthman into the version still in use to this day, which has been memorized cover to cover by hundreds of thousands of Muslims. 
  • Belief in the Prophets: When humans went astray, God sent thousands of prophets (we only know the names of 25 from the Qur’an) to direct them to the straight path. Muslims believe Mohammed (peace be upon him) is the last prophet and mentioned in the gospel. Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Job, Solomon, Joseph and David (peace be upon them) are all great prophets. The Virgin Mary is honored in the Qur’an and one of the chapters of the Qur’an is named after her. In Islam, it is believed that Jesus was the son of Mary and that he had no father. It is also believed that Jesus was not crucified, but elevated to the heavens by God at the end of his worldly life. Some Muslim scholars believe that on the cusp of Earth’s demise, he will return as the Messiah. Muslims have great respect for Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and they cannot be considered Muslims if they do not believe in their existence.
  • Belief in the Day of Judgement: The Day of Judgment is the day when all the bodies are resurrected through the sound of the trumpet of Israfil. On this day, all will provide an account of their lives, revealing both good and bad deeds. Then, God will decide who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Only God can make this final judgment. He can forgive all sins – except claiming anyone or anything other than God is a deity. Heaven and hell are eternal, but it is possible through God’s mercy that those in hell can later be moved to heaven.
  • Belief in Qader: Muslims believe God sees everything, hears everything and knows everything regardless of time and place. He gave free will to humans, and through the revelations in the Qur’an, showed mankind how to live a righteous life (the straight path) and warned against its opposite, the path that leads one astray. God orders humans to stay away from sins and to comply with the rules and regulations provided in the text of the Qur’an. However, humans are free to do whatever they want with the condition that each person will have to give accounts of his or her life on the Day of Judgment. Muslims also believe that God sometimes helps and regulates what humans do as He wants through His encompassing will. Good or bad, Muslims believe everything is created by God, but humans are asked to do only good and to stay away from the bad.

Ways to Be Involved at BenU 

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • HIST 291 History of the Silk Road
  • IDS 201  Jesus and Mary in the Qur'an and Bible
  • LITR 150  Muslim Women's Literature
  • RELS 130 Abrahamic Faith 
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace 

Judaism

The Jewish people have been in existence for some 4000 years, and consider the Biblical patriarch Abraham to be the first Jewish person.  In the Jewish story, God created a covenant with the Jewish people, first with Abraham, and then reiterated with Abraham’s descendants, all the way to Moses.  In this covenant, the Jewish people agreed to follow God’s ways and do what is just and right (see Genesis 18:19), and in return, God promised to make the Jewish people numerous and a blessing to the rest of the world, and to give them the Promised Land (see Genesis 12:1-3).  

 

According to the Biblical Book of Exodus, God made a major statement of this covenant to Moses and the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and gave the Jewish people the Torah (see Exodus 20).  Ever since that time, Jews have upheld this covenant through living out the Torah, following the commandments within the Torah as guidelines for living a moral and ethical life. What binds Jews together is not a common required set of beliefs, but rather a common set of behaviors, and the attitude that all Jews are members of the same extended family.

 

Important Terms

Despite there not being a required set of Jewish beliefs, many Jews embrace these traditional Jewish theological ideas:

 

  • Ethical Monotheism:  There is one God, and God demands that human beings behave ethically.  One of the clearest expressions of this idea is the statement known as the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4).  
  • Divine Image:  Human beings are created in the Divine image of God (Genesis 1:27).  Therefore, all people have infinite value, and all people have a Divine purpose in life.  For Jewish people, holiness is achieved by taking on behaviors to fulfill the obligations of the commandments in the Torah.
  • God as Creator of All:  God created everything, the good as well as the bad.   Judaism has no Devil as a source of evil--“ I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil.  I, the Lord, make all these things” (Isaiah 45:6-7).
  • Idolatry is the cardinal sin:   An idol is anything viewed as more important than God.  “You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them”  (Exodus 20:4-5)
  • Pure Soul:  Everyone is born with a pure soul, free of sin.  There is no concept of Original Sin in Judaism.  “My God, the soul you gave to me is pure” (from a traditional Jewish prayer).
  • Tikkun Olam: Literally, “Repair of the World,” it is the Jewish mission to repair the world, to make it a better place.   Jews attempt to partner with God to mend brokenness—poverty, war, injustice, abuse—through acts of loving kindness, following the commandments in the Torah.
  • Messiah:  Literally, “anointed one,” Jews look forward to a “Messianic Age” when the world will be perfected, when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).   Jews hold that because war has not yet been eliminated and the world has not yet been perfected, the Messiah has not yet come.  The proof of the Messiah will be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of universal peace.
  • After-life:  There is not one Jewish view on after-life.  Many Jews believe that each person contains within them a soul given by God, which is their Divine essence, and when a person dies, their body goes “from dust to dust” while their soul returns to God for everlasting life.   Some Jews believe in the resurrection of the dead, although this view is not widely held today in the Jewish world.   Many Jews hold that as no one knows what happens after death, the best approach is to leave that in God’s hands, and not be concerned with after-life, instead focusing attention and behaviors to make this world into a better place.

Important Religious Texts

The Hebrew Bible is the sacred text of the Jewish people. It contains three parts:  The Torah, the Books of the Prophets (examples include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, Malachi), and the Writings (examples include the Psalms, the Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ruth, Job, Chronicles). Christians have come to call the Hebrew Bible the “Old Testament,” but Jews prefer the term “Hebrew Bible,” or the term “Tanach,” which is a Hebrew acronym representing the three parts of the Hebrew Bible.

However, Judaism--its rituals, customs, and ethical teachings--continued to evolve after the completion of the Hebrew Bible, and its evolution is reflected in the volumes of the Mishnah and the Talmud, composed by the great sages and rabbis of Judaism from about 200 BCE to 500 CE.   This evolution continued into the Middle Ages with influential texts by Jewish commentators Rashi, Maimonides, Nachmanides, Joseph Karo, and others, and into modern times with rabbis contributing “responsa,” or religious responses to ethical questions arising from contemporary society, on such topics as organ transplants, civil rights, and gender equality.

Customs

  • Kosher Food:  Many Jews follow kosher food rules, which are given in a series of commandments in the Torah.  The purpose of the kosher rules are to serve as reminders of God at every meal each day, and thus to elevate the mundane task of eating food into a holy, sacred occasion.  Jews who follow the kosher rules put mindfulness into their eating habits.  Kosher rules include only eating certain kinds of meat (mainly from cows, goats, or sheep), in which the animal has been slaughtered in a special procedure designed to minimize the pain to the animal, only eating fish that have fins and scales (such as salmon, trout, tuna), and not mixing dairy and meat at the same meal. Foods that are not kosher include any food from a pig and shellfish.
  • Jewish Calendar and Holy Days:  Many Jews follow a special Jewish calendar in addition to the secular calendar.   The Jewish calendar is based on the phases of the moon, adjusted according to the seasons of the year.  The phase of the new moon signifies the beginning of a new month.  In addition, seven times every nineteen years an extra month is inserted into the calendar, so that the annual Jewish holy days will always fall in the same season each year.  These holy days include the three Pilgrimage Festivals—Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—when Jews in ancient times would journey to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to donate the best of their crops to feed those in need.  Major holy days also include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, also referred to as the High Holy Days;  these holy days are concerned with personal introspection to improve behavior and character, with reconciling with family and neighbors, and with gaining forgiveness from God for sins committed.  Other yearly holy days are Purim, Chanukah, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

The traditional Jewish way of life is concerned with making ordinary moments and ordinary things holy.   Jews try to infuse Godliness into ordinary aspects of life.   God is viewed as ever-present, and it is the role of Jewish people to live life in constant acknowledgement of God’s presence and blessings.  Many Jewish customs are centered on creating this feeling of everyday holiness:

  • Making time holy: A major traditional Jewish observance is the Sabbath, known as “Shabbat” in Hebrew.The Sabbath is the day of rest, held on the seventh day of every week, defined as beginning each Friday evening at sundown and ending each Saturday evening at sundown. One of the commandments in the Torah is to observe the Sabbath day to make it holy. Some Jews like to view Shabbat as a taste of the world to come, when everyone will be in harmony and peace with each other.
  • Worship: Traditionally observant Jews will worship three times each day—evening, morning, and afternoon. Some synagogues will hold worship services every day, while many others will only have worship services on Shabbat and holy days.   While one may pray alone at any time, it is preferable in Jewish custom to pray in the presence of a “minyan,”  a quorum of at least ten Jewish adults. The presence of community while a person prays is considered to be especially meritorious, and provides a strong sense of support and fellowship. In fact, the most important prayers at a Jewish worship service may only be recited when a minyan is present, which reinforces the value of community. A Jewish house of worship is referred to as a synagogue, congregation, temple, or shul; a Jewish house of worship is never referred to as a church.  In many synagogues, it is customary to wear a head covering; synagogues with that custom will always have a supply of head coverings available for visitors and congregants.
  • Movements within Judaism: Many synagogues are affiliated with a major Jewish movement; among the largest are the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements. There are also congregations that are independent of any of the movements. Orthodox synagogues tend to be very traditional in practice and the worship services are almost entirely in Hebrew. The Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements tend to be more contemporary in practice, with a mix of Hebrew and English in their worship services.
  • Commandments: Jews consider the 613 commandments in the Torah to be guidelines for living a holy life. Many of the commandments deal with everyday life and include:  love your neighbor as yourself, love the stranger, be respectful of all of your employees, observe honest business practices and don’t cheat your customers, comfort the sick and those in mourning, honor your parents.

Ways to be Invovled at BenU

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • RELS 230  Introduction to Judaism 
  • RELS 130  Abrahamic Faiths 
  • IDS 303   Interfaith/Culture Dialogue 
  • THEO 301 Survey of the Hebrew Scriptures
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace 

Orthodox Christianity

Christianity dates back to the first century and is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christianity has three main branches of belief and practice: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. Christians worship one God as the Holy Trinity, consisting of the Father (creator of the universe), Jesus Christ (the savior of the world), and the Holy Spirit (which has worked to sanctify and transform lives throughout history and continues to do so today). 

The Orthodox church, or the Eastern half of the Christian church, split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 A.D. Orthodox Christians are incredibly diverse, and among the nationalities and cultures represented are Antiochian, Carpatho-Russian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian. 

Important Terms

  • God: "God" refers to a single, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal deity. God is triune, meaning that God is One in Three Persons, without division or distinction. God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This belief is not meant to be grasped in a mathematical way, but contemplated through a lifetime. Like Jews and Muslims, Christians are of the Abrahamic tradition and worship the God who made a covenant with the ancient Hebrew people. 
  • Christ: From the Greek Christos and Hebrew Messiah, which means "annointd one." A messiah is sent by God to bring the salvation of the people, and Chrisitians consider Jesus of Nazareth to be the ultimate messiah. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, He made Heaven available and attainable for the faithful, bringing ultimate salvation in eternal life with God. 
  • Eucharist: For Orthodox, bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus through transfiguration at the "Liturgy of the Eucharist" within Mass. Communion is the central act of Christian worship. 
  • Sacraments:  Visible signs of God's grace in the world. The Orthodox Church recognizes seven sacraments. The seven sacraments are: Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Annointing of the Sick. 

Important Religious Texts

The Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Catholic and Orthodox traditions also include seven apocryphal books. 

  • The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible contains the Torah (the first five books, also called the Law, include Genesis, Exodous, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are the most important texts in Judaism). Histories, psalms, proverbs, poetry, prophets, and for Catholics and Orthodox, apocrypha are also included. 
  •  The New Testament contains the Gospels, (the story of Jesus' life, includes Mattew, Mark, Luke and Joh) the Acts of the Apostles, epistles of disciples and one apocryphal writing.  

Customs

The life of the Orthodox church revolves arond the church calendar, and each day is dedicated to a particular saint. Some Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, meaning that some Christian feast days like Easter and Christmas, fall on different days than Catholic or Protestant observances. 

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Worship is a central feature of the Orthodox Christian faith. The liturgy in the Orthodox church is transcendent, meant to take the worshiper to the heavenly realm with God. Worship services also emphasize the nearness of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. 

Orthodox liturgy is spoken in the native language of the particular community, and is rooted in ancient tradition. 

 

Ways to be Involved at BenU  

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • IDS 201  Jesus and Mary in the Qu'ran and Bible
  • RELS 130  Abrahamic Faiths 
  • RELS 120  Eastern Traditions 
  • RELS 265  Eastern Christianity 
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace 

Protestant Christianity

Christianity dates back to the first century and is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christianity has three main branches of belief and practice: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. Christians worship one God as the Holy Trinity, consister of the Father (creator of the universe), Jesus Christ (the savior of the world) and the Holy Spirit (which has worked to sanctify and transform lives throughout history and continues to do so today). 

The Protestant church formed in the 16th century, separating from the Roman Catholic Church over disputes about faith and justification. The Protestant church is further divided into denominations, including (but not limited to) Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and Wesleyan. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church, is another branch of Christianity that was founded in the United States in 1829 by Joseph Smith. 

Important Terms

  • God: "God" refers to a single, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal deity, God is triune, meaning that God is One in Three Persons, without division or distinction.  God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This belief is not meant to be grasped in a mathematical way, but contemplated through a lifetime. Like Jews and Muslims, Christians are of the Abrahamic tradition and worship the God who made a covenant with the ancient Hebrew people. 
  • Christ: From the Greek Christos and Hebrew Messiah, which means, "anointed one." A messiah is sent by God to bring the salvation of the people, and Christians consider Jesus of Nazareth to be the ultimate messiah. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, He made Heaven availalbe and attainable for the faithful, brining ultimate salvation in eternal life with God. 
  • Communion: A regular sharing in the elements of bread and wine, which for Protestants signify the body and blood of Jesus as he shared it the night before his death. Communion is the central act of Christian worship. 
  • Sacraments: Visible signs of God's grace in the world. Protestants recognize two sacraments-baptism and communion. Besides the official two, any experience or item that makes God's grace visible can be considered sacramental. 
  • The Creeds: The Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed are ancient church documents that affirm that basic tenants of the Christian faith are held as definitive for all Christian communities. 

Important Religious Texts

The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible contains the Torah (the first five books, also called the Law, include Genesis, Exodux, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), as well as histories, psalms adn proverbs, poetry and prophets. 

The New Testament contains the Gospels, (the story of Jesus' life, includes Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) the Acts of the Apostles, and the episles of disciples.

Customs

There is great variety of traditions and customs within the Protestant Church, and Protestants celebrate majory holidarys including Christmas and Easter. Protestant churches on the whole value democratic order within the church, and more function independently of one another. Protestant denomincations grow and change rapdily, and it is estimated that there are currently around 40,000 denominations worldwide. 

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

Protestant Christians gather for traditional worship services on Sunday. There is a great variety in worship expression within the Protestant church, but central to most services is the proclamation of the Bible, a sermon, hymn singing, prayer, and regular communion. 

Service to others is an essential teaching of Christianity, and all Christians are called to serve each other and the less fortunate. Many Christians volunteer on a regular basis with an organization or do different projects with their faith groups, advocating for justice and peace in our world. 

Ways to be Involved at BenU 

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn more about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • IDS/HNRS 201  History of Christian-Muslim Relations 
  • IDS 303  Interfaith/Culture Dialogue
  • RELS 130  Abrahamic Traditions 
  • RELS 285 Religion in America 
  • THEO 212  Land, Justice and Peace 

Sikhism

Sikhs believe in One Immortal Being. To be a Sikh is to be a learner. Sikhs make no distinctions between gender, class or race and all Sikhs are to be committed to being saint soldiers. “Saint” indicates the importance of spiritual discipline, and “soldier” indicates one’s readiness to fight oppression. Sikhs are committed to meditation, earning an honest living and sharing wealth with the community.

Important Terms

  • Ardas: Community prayer led by one person in the gurdwara service. People may ask for blessings for special occasions during the ardas.
  • Satnam: A common greeting among Sikhs that means “True Name” and acknowledges the God in all.
  • Sangat: Refers to the congregation who gather for a worship service.

Important Religious Texts

Guru Granth Sahib.

Customs

Sikhs believe that one’s body is a temple and should be in service of the spirit. As such, one’s body must be treated with respect and as such, refrain from eating meat or consuming alcohol.

Worship, Prayer, and Practice

A gurdwara is the Sikh service, literally translated to mean “the door that leads to the Guru.” The purpose of the gurdwara is to uplift one’s consciousness through song, meditation and reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. Worshipping in community is particularly important in the Sikh tradition.

Ways to be Involved at BenU 

Here are a few classes offered at BenU about this faith tradition. Please visit the Course Catalog for more information and click here to learn about the Interfaith Studies Emphasis. 

  • HIST 281 Survey of East Asia
  • IDS 303 Interfaith/Culture Dialogue
  • RELS 285  Religion in America 
  • RELS 120 Eastern Traditions 

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