Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism’

What is the Role of Faith in Your Life?

June 9, 2011

‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ — Jesus

A talk by five people of five different faiths on the role of faith in their life.

Nabil Mustapha (Baha’i faith): Faith is a covenant. Medicine is a noble profession, to be practised to help others, not to earn lots of money. The Baha’i faith is a choice to be exercised, a choice not to be exercised until one reaches the age of sixteen.

Mark Bishop (Buddhism): Grew up in India then UK in the Protestant and Catholic tradition. Did not become a Buddhist until late in life. Belongs to a sect that has no monks. Chant a mantra half an hour before breakfast then again in the evening.

Ray Traynor (Catholism): Taught in many countries. Chance conversations, chance meetings, led to these opportunities. Like Santiago in The Alchemist, risks were taken.

Irene Black (Judaism): One is born a Jew. It is who your parents are that determines that you are a Jew. Difficult to say what the impact of faith has on ones life. Easier to say what the lack of faith means, life would have no meaning. A close parallel between Hinduism and Judaism. Faith is seen through action. There are as many interpretations of Judaism as there are Jews.

Adel Sharif (Islam): We all have faith. Religion is man made. Prophets are messengers of God, their names in Arabic reflects their function. There is only one Koran, but many interpretations. Translations are often bad as the translator does not understand the Arabic. Muslims recognise the same God, the same prophets as Jews and Christians. The Quran is a continuation of what went before, not something new. The Quran tells believers of the One Faith to recognise Jews and Christians. Believers are seekers after truth. A scientist is a seeker after truth. Education should be for the betterment of mankind, not to earn more money. The proposed Multi-Faith Centre at Surrey University is to be renamed the Faith Centre. [also see The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations]

Gifts: We all have gifts. We should share those gifts.

Peace: Something we should all strive for.

Prayer: God listens. Maybe we should heed the advice of St Benedict and learn to listen. Prayer is two-way communication. We have to learn to read the signs. [also see Does it matter how we pray?]

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho describes those who say their faith is the only way as religious bigots. A devout Catholic, at his St Joseph Party in Istanbul he quoted from the Quran. He invited his guests to join him in prayer. Prayers were said in several languages by people from different religious backgrounds.

In The Shack Jesus is asked: Do you have to be a Christian to follow Him? He replies no, as even He is not a Christian. He adds, Jews, Muslims, even Buddhists, follow him.

Publicity: The meeting was very poorly publicised. Even St Joseph’s lacked a poster on the church notice board! As an absolute minimum posters and flyers in local churches, libraries, Guildford Institute.

Meeting hosted by Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum at St Joseph’s Church in Guildford (Eastgate Gardens). 7pm Thursday 9 June 2011.

Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum is an informal collective. For more information on future meetings please contact Bernard Jones (

Upcoming events

Midsummer Feast with Eden people – evening Tuesday 14 June 2011 – Allen House Pavilion, Guildford.

George Abbott’s Guildford. A talk by Mary Alexander at St Mary’s Church in Guildford. George Abbott was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, a contributor to the King James’ Bible. 7-30pm Tuesday evening 28 June 2011.

Creative Arts @ Costa, a celebration of music, word and the visual arts, takes place at Costa in Swan Lane in Guildford on the first Tuesday of the month (same day as the farmers market). The next event is Tuesday evening 5 July 2011. There will be no events in August and September. Swan Lane is the narrow lane that runs between the High Street and North Street at the lower end of the High Street. With Eden People, a Christian collective.

The Keystone Spirit is a regular meeting of Eden People at The Keystone Pub (3 Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU2 4BL).

Pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory with the Knights of St Columba

June 15, 2010
Midday Mass in the open air shrine

Midday Mass in the open air shrine

‘The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances.’ — Paulo Coelho

Sunday I found myself on a trip organized by the Knights of Saint Columba. What was I doing here I asked myself?

The Knights of Saint Columba is a fraternal organisation founded in Glasgow in 1919 by Patrick Joseph O’Callaghan and based on its sister organisation in the USA the Knights of Columbus. It is named in honour of Saint Columba, a Christian missionary from Ireland. Membership is limited to Catholic men. The Knights at local level are organised in councils and provinces.

Motto: Charity, Unity and Fraternity.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic secret society founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1882. If this sounds like the Masons you are spot on. It was founded by Irish-American priest The Venerable Father Michael J McGivney (who is well on the way to sainthood) as a Catholic alternative to the Masons. Catholics at the time, and maybe true today, were barred from joining the Masons (though this begs the question why many prominent Catholics were members of the powerful P2 lodge?). Knights of Columbus has evolved into a very powerful and wealthy, far-right organization. Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, powerful backers of George W Bush. A propaganda wing for the Catholic Church. In true Catholic fashion it is male only. Jeb Bush is a prominent member. Masons have lodges, Knights of Columbus councils. Like masons they have a fondness for dressing up and a multiplicity of ranks and titles. A group in California calling themselves Californians Against Hate, put the Knights on their Roll of Dishonor. But they do dish out loads of dosh as charitable donations, and were originally established to help poor working class Catholics.

As an aside: The Lost Symbol, the latest novel from Dan Brown, features the Masons and their influence in Washington DC.

I had planned on a day trip to Brighton, so what was I doing on an awayday with the Knights of Saint Columba? It was my lovely friend Sian’s idea. We were on a pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory in Kent, a Carmelite Order.

Not my idea of a pilgrimage. My idea is travelling on foot to a Holy Shrine or some place of spiritual significance. Not a coach trip. This was more like a penance as I hate being cooped up in a coach at the best of times.

My idea of a pilgrimage is what Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho undertook over twenty years ago when he walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient medieval pilgrims route through the Pyrenees. An account he wrote of in The Pilgrimage and was to lead to the writing of The Alchemist. But then when he undertook the pilgrimage it was a penance for having the arrogance to think he was worthy of a sword, a sword his Master J deemed he was not worthy of at the time.

But here we were, my lovely friend Sian and I, on a coach trip to Aylesford Priory in Kent organized by the Knights of Saint Columba.

We set off in the morning and a couple of uneventful hours later (the coach trip was not as bad as I had expected) we were there. This was no ordinary trip. There was to be a rally of the Knights with a parade in full regalia that afternoon.

An open air mass was held at midday in what is known as the shrine. The mass was presided over by Bishop Howard Tripp. Dotted around the shrine were the banners of the Knights.

Several small chapels lead off from the shrine. Incredible ceramics in the chapels. Behind the shrine a peace garden. Around the periphery of the garden stations of the cross.

At 2-20pm, a public ceremony presided over by the Deputy Supreme Knight where new people were proposed and elevated as knights. This was preceded by a private ceremony in one of the side chapels from which the public were excluded.

At 3-30pm Rosary Procession and Benediction where the Knights and anyone who wishes to join in walk in procession around the peace garden then back to the shrine, presided over by Bishop Howard Tripp and the Prior Father Brendon.

I was very struck by the gold cross with the flaming sun at its centre. What struck me was that this represents the Egyptian Sun God Ra. The cross, apart from being an instrument of torture and execution upon which Jesus and many of his followers were crucified, has its roots in Ancient Egypt. It looked very impressive as it caught the sun’s rays. I would have liked to have looked at it close to but it was covered with a cloth at the end of the Benediction.

It was the birthday of the bishop in two weeks time and everyone joined in wishing him a Happy Birthday. He was also due to celebrate 30 years as a bishop.

A tea-shop and bookshop plus a lovely dining room, where if we had known to book in advance we could have dined in style. The tea-shop and bookshop is housed in a restored 17th century thatched barn.

The Priory is located on the banks of the River Medway.

I have not been on a pilgrimage before. It was a novel experience. I have though many times visited the tomb of Thomas a Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral. Walked part of the Pilgrims Way, immortalized by Chaucer, though most of it is now main highway. Walked parts of the North Downs Way which parallels the Pilgrims Way.

It seemed suitably appropriate to hand to the Prior as a gift for the priory library a copy of The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho.

This was handed to Father Brendon, the Prior, and he said he had read some of Paulo Coelho, an author with whom he was familiar. I recommended that he read the recently published biography of Paulo Coelho, A Warrior’s Life by Fernando Morais.

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a copy of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was left behind. I hope it will be read with an open mind. It was left in good spirit on a wall in the peace garden. I trust it will be received in the same good spirit as it was left.

It could not have been a better day. Sunny, but not too hot.

Special thanks to Sian who invited me along and the knights who took us there.

Aylesford Priory (aka The Friars) is a Carmelite Order dating back to the 13th century. It was founded in 1240 by Ralph Frisburn on his return from the Holy Land. It was the first Carmelite Order to be established in Europe. It was dissolved by Henry VIII, rebuilt during the 1670s, destroyed by fire in the 1930s. The Carmelites took it back in 1949 and began the process of restoration. Aylesford Priory is a retreat and conference centre. Part of the restoration was to build a shrine ‘to bring in pilgrims’. At 250,000 pilgrims a year, a successful marketing ploy. The relics of Saint Simon Stock, the first Superior-General, are enshrined at the Priory.

Aylesford is a village on the River Medway in Kent. The river is crossed by a medieval bridge. The name derives from ‘Ægel’s ford’, an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The Church of St Peter and St Paul is of Norman origin.

Also see

Pilgrimage to Aylesford Priory with the Knights of St Columba
Organ recital at St Michael’s Abbey
Nepotism? Not us, say Knights of St Columba

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