My brother died in a car accident when he was eight years old, writes Kevin Mallen. I wanted to mark the anniversary of his birthday and do something different to mark the event. And so on 26 July last year I stood shoulder to shoulder beneath the Spire on O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre helping to hold a banner that read: “Not In Our Name – Muslims protest against terrorism”. It was to be a more than significant event as it set me on the path to Interfaith.
I am an Irish Roman Catholic by tradition and a Catechist (religious educator) by trade. I readily admit being scared to open myself in a radical way to other faith paths since I’ve spent all my adult life living, teaching and working in that Catholic context. It was Rabbi Gelberman who gave me the courage to begin when he said, in reference to other faiths, “never instead of, always in addition to”. I discovered, at first, that the more I was rooted in my own tradition, the more I could reach out in understanding to other paths. As our Hindu speaker reminded us that very first weekend in London: “The same Spirit in me, is in you”.
And yet I found the sand beneath my feet shifting as I read and reflected on the different faith paths over the passing months. The concluding prayer from — as I write — this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours for the feast of Trinity Sunday reads: “Help us to believe in you and worship you, as the true faith teaches..”. I could no longer pray that, as I have come to realise that no one path has the whole truth. The one truth is the Divine we experience inside each one of us. But to stand outside the circle of my own tradition is a dark and often lonely experience.
I now try to seek what is best, what is deepest, what is beautiful, what is of the Spirit in each faith tradition.
The primal religions were such an eye-opener. I found myself thinking of the Celtic traditions and realising for the first time that they didn’t worship trees and rivers and earth and sky, but experienced the transcendent, the divine, in everything around them and responded to that reality. I am Pagan.
Hinduism reflects that in the Namaste blessing: since the divine in me sees and acknowledges the divine in you, we are one. That oneness is a thread common to all paths. We are made for oneness with Reality and with each other. I am Hindu.
Judaism is my cousin. When I call on the light of my soul, I am indeed home, as the Barhu song says. On special days I wear my tallit and kippah when at prayer. I am Jew.
Instead of stringing my beads together on the Muslim weekend, I left them in my lap and closed my eyes to the recitation of the 99 beautiful attributes of Allah in the small circle. I am Muslim.
In her journals found after her death the French philosopher Raissa Maritain wrote of faith and the maelstrom during World War Two. “I have the feeling that what is asked of us is to live in the whirlwind, without keeping back any of our substance…to let ourselves pitch and toss in the waves of the divine.” I am Interfaith.
Written May 2016. Kevin Mallen is in the class working towards ordaination in July 2017.