Recently, I concelebrated the wedding of a young man I baptized nearly 25 years ago. Along with two other priests and 200 guests, we gathered in St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan.

After the ceremony, torrential rain caused my priest-friends and me to take a cab to the reception. It turned out to be a memorable experience.

When the three of us, in clerical garb, got into the taxi, we were met by the astonished and welcoming eyes of a Middle Eastern cab driver who seemed strangely eager to talk to us. Recognizing we were Catholic priests, he immediately began talking about religion. He was so eager to begin the conversation that I noted that he failed to start the contraption on the dashboard that was going to time our trip.

He said his name was Amar, he was from Turkey and he recently became a U.S. citizen. He lives with his family in New Jersey so that he and his children can live in a peaceful and secure neighborhood where everyone keeps an eye out for each other.

“Just like my village in Turkey,” he said. “We take care of one another.”

He told us he was of the Islamic faith. “You and me,” he said, “we’re children of Abraham.”

“Yes,” I politely responded; “we are, and because of that we are essentially brothers and sisters.” He enthusiastically agreed.

Amar told us his religion honors Mohammed, Moses and Jesus as prophets: “They were all holy men and they’re all the same, just holy men of God. So, this is what is important.”

Sensing that a difference of opinion was about to surface, I said: “On that point, we probably disagree, because for us Christians, Jesus is not just a prophet, but the only Son of God.”

“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” he said. I sensed he was pressing me to agree and that we were getting into dicey territory.

My friends just wanted to close their eyes for a few minutes. I got the feeling that they just wanted me to shut up and mind my own business. But I didn’t want to let it go. He was well-intentioned and I sensed he sincerely wanted to engage us. How often would he get the chance to talk to a priest?

So, I said, “Amar, I think we’re going to both disagree here, but I think we should continue talking about what we have in common. You said we are brothers and sisters and we both believe in one God. Let’s talk about how awesome and good God is and how we find joy in him when we pray.”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “I pray three times a day, and when I pray I experience how wonderful God is and how he has taken care of me.”

I said: “I, too, pray three times a day, and I experience the same thing. You see that we have much in common and we’re both loved by God!”

He agreed and smiled. That sealed the deal: We were now connected!

The conversation went on about other things, but when we left the cab (I gave him a big tip), there was a glimmer of brotherhood in both our eyes. The experience got me thinking about why this dicey encounter ended up well. Many times in the past, they have not.

Differences between other peoples’ beliefs and lifestyles are all around us. They present stumbling blocks to solidarity and peace. For me, it is not easy to gloss over the importance of my Catholic beliefs, because I believe in the unique truth of our faith, a truth meant for all. However, it seems to me that little is gained when, starting with differing views, one sets out for battle.

Long ago, I heard a maxim I try to remember when I’m involved with people whose ideas are vastly different from mine: “There is no ‘them.’ but only ‘us.’”

We are first brothers and sisters, all in the soup together. For some, the search for truth and meaning doesn’t matter at all. For many, the search comes to them in pieces, from the opportunities they are given in life. For people who know and love Christ, it is important to remember that we have had opportunities to come to know Him and enter His kingdom. We should be deeply grateful.

The older I get, the more grateful I become for my Catholic education, for priests and teachers who made an impact, for the correction that many gave me, for the parishes I’ve come to know, for the Catholic press and for the vast body of Catholic wisdom of the saints and theologians of the Church.

For those without the gift, we pray. We connect and we love them, and we do not allow the views they have to interfere with our loving them. We also do not condescend or patronize them. Their views are sincere and deep. Shame on us if we scoff at them. In some cases, there is much to learn from them.

We have to make sure, however, that we do not capitulate or relativize our own beliefs, even in our own ears. It is heresy and a lack of logic which says that all beliefs are as true as any other, or that it doesn’t matter what you believe as true, so long as you don’t hurt anyone. There is an objective order to things and objective truth. A car is still a car, even if you believe it to be an elephant.

I suggest we never shy away from people who are different from us or who challenge — but we keep first things first. Connect first. See others as brothers and sisters. Discuss, clarify and even refute. End the discussion with agreeing to disagree. Then, connect again. Embrace your challenger as a brother or sister. Have dinner together. You can make a friend, like I did with Amar.

After all, we have a lot in common. We’re family.

(Father Morrette is pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls.)