Very Rev. Fr. Shnorhk Kasparian
For many centuries Armenians have lived with various peoples of Islamic faith. Regardless of the aggressive nature of the Moslem people and the constant efforts to convert Armenians-sometimes by force, sometimes by promise and rewards-Armenians have remained faithful to their faith and church, to the traditional Christian values of their ancestors
We are living in different times. In our present era, the youth in particular are meeting thousands of other young people who have the same goals and share similar aspirations. When they are drawn to one another with serious interest, religion sometimes is overlooked, especially in our secular society when many don’t practice their faith.
This was the case of two young people who met during their school years and developed a strong relationship along the years. Their bond was serious and they wished to get married. No one could detect a trace of difference between them; they were both learned, modern, attractive and very much in line with the American way of living. But there was a basic difference and a major issue for others perhaps. The girl’s background was unacceptable to the young man’s parents: she was a Moslem, though not practicing.
This serious relationship was very much concealed until a baby boy was born to them. The matter could no longer be ignored, but had to be dealt with. With the baby’s arrival everything came into the open and tension started to decrease. According to Armenian tradition, the first thing in the family’s mind was to baptize the newborn child. However, they were concerned whether the young lady, the mother of the child, would consent to have her baby baptized. The young mother was very sensitive to the feelings of her in-laws. Being a very broad minded person, she made everyone happy when she announced that she wished her son to adopt his father’s religion. Soon after that she went so far as to learn her husband’s faith in order to help raise her son accordingly. It was at this point that I was invited to visit once a week and explain the Christian faith to this young lady, who was going to be the bride and the mother of a Christian Armenian husband and a son.
I was very satisfied by her attentiveness and by the intelligent questions she asked concerning the Holy Trinity, the identity of Jesus, salvation, the church, sacraments, etc. The more she learned, the more interested she became. I could see that she was absorbing so deeply and sincerely that faith was shining on her face.
One day she said to me, “I initiated this path without imagining that I would arrive to this point.” She had become a true believer. In due time I invited her to take the next step: to profess her belief openly and to be baptized, if she so desired. She gladly did. A sense of wonder and awe caught me. The Holy Spirit was surely at work because the last thing in my mind was to convert her to Christianity. We gave her a Christian name and baptized her. Another priest assisted me and members of her future family witnessed her conversion. I am sure the angels in heaven witnessed it too. As I baptized her, I heard Christ’s words saying, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44).