Thursday 3 rd August 2023
The following is an edited account of this event.
(Fr Raymond gave an account of some of the more prominent facets of Catholicism, quoting from scripture and commented on it, to show how scripture is abstracted into some of the main statements of the Nicene Creed and put into practice by Catholics who believe and live by it).
Our evening was enthusiastically supported by a small group, composed mainly of members of various community groups in Crawley and a select few from areas beyond the town. We were introduced to Fr. Raymond Tumba, Parish Priest to the Crawley Catholic Community from the steps of the sanctuary. He welcomed us warmly, was grateful for the opportunity to offer his contribution to CIFN activities and thanked Christine Cateaux and Ash Soni in particular, for their role in helping to arrange this activity.
Fr. Raymond acknowledged that since we are all people of faith it would be fitting to begin with prayer. On behalf of all, he offered thanksgiving for the gift of one another, the blessings our meeting together will achieve and in the hope that God’s plans for us all, will come to fruition. Fr. Raymond explained that he wanted to avoid what might seem a formal presentation, but in an effort to aid our understanding he had prepared a brief of printed notes, listing some of the core beliefs of the Catholic Faith. These were distributed and he referred to them as he spoke.
THE CATHOLIC FAITH
He indicated the main Altar which as the central feature of the Church, catches one’s attention on entering the building. He identified the Altar and the Tabernacle as essential furnishings, important fixtures which link a central Catholic belief with the manifestation of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, specifically in the Tabernacle and consequently in the Community. The red sanctuary lamp, houses a flame indicating that Jesus Christ is present in the Church. Hence when a member of the faithful sees the light, they reverence the presence of Christ by genuflecting – taking the knee. Fr. Raymond mentioned that becoming too accustomed to this practice can cause embarrassment. He told of his experience on taking his place at a musical venue, with rows of seating set out as in a Church, conditioned in such circumstances, without conscious awareness, he almost knelt, before being seated prior to the concert !
A core belief included in the Nicene Creed – the first statement of faith recited regularly by many Christians states : ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible.’ He emphasised that there were many different faith communities which venerate God as creator. However, the Nicene statement of faith goes on to maintain that God is not just the creator of Heaven and Earth but is also the originator of all things visible and invisible. This concept is embedded in the scripture found in the Bible at Exodus chapter 20 : 3. God says ‘You shall have no other Gods but me’.
Icon depicting Constantine I, accompanied by the bishops of the first Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) holding the Niceno-Constantinololitan Creed The first line of the text : Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θ[εό]ν, πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ κ[αὶ] γῆς, Translation: “I believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
Which reads from right to left : ‘la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasulullah’. This phrase, part of what is called the Shahada, or Muslim creed, is the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and in Muhammad as His Prophet.
The Testimony of Faith inscribed as calligraphy on top of the Babussalam gate of the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul.
Jews, Muslims and Christians attribute the foundation of belief in One God to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. However the relationship of the Fatherhood of God is introduced by the prophet Malachi, Chapter 2 : 10, who asks ‘Do we not all have one Father ? Did not One God create us ? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another ? This text depicts the important link between God as creator and God as Father.
Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth. Verse 2 says ‘The Spirit of God hovered over the World. Then God Spoke and Said, Verse 3 : “Let there be light” ’. By the power of God’s word all was brought into being. People of Faith make the link between Creation and Fatherhood. Christians especially celebrate God as Father of all.
The Creed goes on to identify God in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the only begotten Son of God. It can be a bone of contention for some, to hear Jesus Christ, the Human Being, spoken of as God. There are many who acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, they accept that the Gospels report him as a miracle worker. But when it is claimed that Jesus is God, they refuse to accept this. Christians regard Jesus as a perfect man, a Human Being in everything except sinfulness. They believe that Jesus is the revelation of God. The Creed includes the phrase ‘I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ’. How do we know that the Lord Jesus is God ? Because Romans 13:14 states ‘Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh’.
The Book of Revelations tells us that Jesus was before all time. In the same way that we consider that God is eternal, He had no beginning. So the text of Revelations 1:8 ‘Amen, I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God. He who was, and who is, and who is to come: the Almighty’. God says – I am the beginning and the end. The Creed develops this by further claiming Jesus is ‘True God from True God’. The Early Church Fathers put this belief into words, demonstrating the mystery of faith – Jesus is God, begotten of the Father, since before Creation.
Papyrus 66 (also referred to as # 66) is a near complete codex of the Gospel of John, and part of the collection known as the Bodmer Papyri. Description The first page of the papyrus, showing John 1:1-13 and the opening words of v.14
The Evangelist John included this in the first chapter of his Gospel in another way. He wrote ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God – a beautiful description. Verse 14 ‘And the Word was made flesh’. The Word of God is Jesus Christ and this Word is a Human Being. Through the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he dwelt among us. Thus the celebration of Christian Christmas on 25 th December each year is the birth of Jesus Christ. This is referred to by the prophet Isaiah 7 :14 and the child is named ‘Emmanuel’ by the Angel of the New Testament in accounts of Christ’s birth, meaning ‘God is with us’. In Luke’s version 1 : 26-38, the angel told Mary v31 ‘You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus…..’ It is a testimony of an angel of light and scripturally embedded. It offers an essential revelation of the nature of God which Catholics accept as truth. St. Paul bears witness to this doctrine in his letter to the Philippians 2:6-7 which contains what is called in Greek, ‘The Kenosis’. This has been interpreted in various ways, but many Christians understand that Jesus is God who emptied himself to become a Human Being. Hence it identifies the Christ ‘who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself as nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in Human likeness’. Although He is God, he emptied himself and took the nature of a man in obedience to the will of Almighty God. The Creed at this point follows the biographical details of the life of Jesus Christ – in respecting God’s plan. The Son of God became Man and through a set of circumstances and was crucified as a criminal by the Roman authorities.
Fr. Raymond pointed to the Crucifix above the main altar, another fixture found in Catholic Churches. It illustrates the next point in the Creed which Christianity proclaims, that this death on a cross is for the salvation of all mankind. It was through this act of obedience that God’s merciful love is realised and revered. Scripture says Philippians 2:10-11 ‘At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend. In Heaven, on Earth and among the dead and all tongues proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ Fr. Raymond insisted that these teachings about the nature of God and Jesus Christ are recognised as true, mostly because of the way the scriptural writings about them are interpreted. One such text comes to us over 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9 : 6 ‘For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father ,Prince of Peace.’ These words are considered to be inspired in some way, in that the words the author wrote were realised in the person of Jesus Christ. So that the Christ, who the Gospels proclaim, is prefigured. The same can be said of Isaiah 53 : 5-6. ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all. This passage about the Suffering Servant tells forth about what the Christ will be. We see all of this unfolded in the crucifixion – the details that record the death of Jesus Christ. On the cross, the instrument of Roman execution, Jesus is transfixed by nails to it. For Christians, this selfless act of the Man/God, amounts to the redemption of all humanity. Through the voluntary effort of God made Man, the World is saved.
Fr. Raymond made a distinction between the crucifix and a cross. The cross, normally acknowledged in the First Century as the worst defeat that a human being could possibly suffer, becomes a symbol of the victory that Christ achieved in dying on the cross and rising to new life. There is no body on the cross because Jesus Christ is risen and ascended to glory. The crucifix however, takes the image of the cross and applies the iconic figure of the body of the suffering Christ. It becomes the witness to the mission of Christ on earth. The final chapters of the Gospel give the Good News of Jesus Christ and relate the truth of God’s love and mercy. Fr. Raymond explained that the full picture of the crucifix should always be shown with the two criminals who were also condemned to die with Jesus. One on his right, the other on his left. Luke 23 : 39 – 43 While the criminal on his left jeared and mocked Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ, then save yourself and us as well !” But the other, traditionally called Dimas, rebuked him saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as he did ? For us it is just. This is payment for what we have done. But his man has done nothing wrong”. Turning to Jesus he said “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus replied, “truly , you will be with me today in paradise.” Fr Raymond continued, Jesus said, “ I have come so that they may have life, life in all its fullness.’ John 10:10 . So for seeking forgiveness in humility, Dismas, even despite his wrongdoing was able to receive the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom. Jesus says I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 16: 19. So you see the cross indicates the salvation, forgiveness peace and hope even to the hopeless, even to a condemned criminal. At the foot of the Cross, he was given admittance to Heaven. That is why for us it is not only about the crucifix, it is not only about Christ’s suffering, the cross is the sign of God’s love. There are a number of other, many beautiful ideas that accompany it. Many Christians make the gesture of crossing themselves, particularly before offering prayer. The Sign of the Cross is a blessing which is made in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is in itself a prayer of invocation of the Holy Trinity, the three ‘persons’ in one God. For some this act in itself is a guard to ward against evil.
A Sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, that is, God’s favour made real in form and matter. The Seven Sacraments are Catholic formalities or procedures that could loosely apply as rites of passage in a person’s life. However because of their spiritual significance they bear for some a deeper meaning in the believer’s relationship with God.
The Seven Sacraments, an altar piece by Rogier van der Weyden c.1448
Baptism, is a sacrament of initiation which usually takes place in infancy. But for a practicing Christian it has a lasting importance throughout the whole of life. Put very simply, Baptism gives the child, it’s family and the community it lives with and matures in, the responsibility of living the faith it professes. It is a sign of God’s forgiving love that gives a character to the soul of the individual. It marks one out as a child of God for life. Fr. Raymond described Baptism as washing away of sinfulness. It gives access to some of the other Sacraments of the Church. Baptism involves the pouring of water on the individual whilst pronouncing the words “I baptise you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is usually an opportunity to celebrate, at the same time, the name by which the child will be called.
The Sacrament of Matrimony implies not just a relationship between two people, a man and a woman. It is the steadfast declaration of the vows or solemn promises to the other person, which claims God as a witness to them. Such pledges are absolute.
Holy Orders or the Ordination of a Priest, is the inauguration for ministry of a man who offers himself for the service of God’s People. The promises taken require the same level of commitment required by the Sacrament of Matrimony, the only difference being that the priest does not marry and in effect promises to live his life in chastity.
The Sacrament of the Sick is the anointing of those who are ill or infirm, to provide spiritual strength in order to bear the suffering involved. This may well accord a family with the right attitude to encounter the disorder and eventual impending death of a loved one.
Confirmation is another Sacrament of initiation that provides the individual, usually in adolescence, with the support of the Community and God’s Holy Spirit in order to allow him or her to grow as a strong faithful member of the People of God.
Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, involves the penitent seeking God’s forgiveness through the ministry of the Priest. Regardless of the faults of the Priest, the penitent who confesses their wrongdoing or the duties they have omitted to fulfil in their own interest or the interests of others, in humility and sorrow is forgiven. The priest is obliged under severe spiritual penalties, not to divulge such information. Through the authority vested by God in him, the Priest is able to mediate God’s forgiveness.
The Holy Eucharist, another sacrament of initiation, is the sacrament of the presence of the person of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The bread consecrated at the celebration of The Supper of the Lord is reserved in the Tabernacle. Again, through the action of the Priest, and the attendance of the people, Jesus Christ’s presence is made manifest in the bread and wine, offered on behalf of the people by the Priest. It is then consumed by the Priest and People. Any of the precious body and blood of Christ that remains after the Communion, is either consumed by the Priest or replaced in the Tabernacle behind the altar.
There are a variety of categories of priesthood in the Catholic Church. The priests who managed the Friary Church and Crawley Catholic Parish prior to the present regime were Diocesan priests who were organised and directed by the Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. Religious priests, such as the Community of the Order of Saint Augustine which now minister to and maintain the Parish have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They can work anywhere in the World. They are not confined to a Diocese. Fr. Raymond gave a brief summary of his own career. He has lived and ministered in the U.K. Since 2011. He has worked in London , Birmingham and is now resident in Crawley with three other Augustinian Friars of the same community. Bishops are vested with special responsibilities to manage multiple Catholic communities within their auspices. Some are given the spiritual care of prisoners and the people who work with them. Some to care for or to serve the various defence organisations that are stationed at home or abroad. There are many groups or communities in every walk of life that need the service of a spiritual adviser or chaplain. Archbishops take on the role of the supervision groups of dioceses and many of the administrative responsibilities and duties that apply to the Church in its national setting. A Cardinal is given special responsibility to act as the head of a nation’s Catholic Community and is vested with the right to attend a conclave at which a new Pope , the World leader of the Catholic Church on Earth, is chosen.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Around the Church at intervals are 14 images of the events which are traditionally associated with the Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa. In Jerusalem today, Christians go on pilgrimage to attend the Stations of the Cross, it is a spiritual re-enactment of the path taken by Jesus Christ around parts of the old city, carrying the cross similar to the one on which he died and the various events that occurred, leading up to his death and burial. Catholics make a similar spiritual journey in their own Churches, praying the same prayers and following the same order of events. Visiting each of the images brings to mind their importance and through them the implications of the eventual death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a devotional exercise that is in itself a physical prayer and enables the devotee to realise the inner realities it provokes. Fr. Raymond advised that the Stations of the Cross depict the immense suffering that Jesus Christ endured and in particular stressed how they prompt the notion that through the apparent abject failure Jesus Christ experienced, there is a victory that provides hope for all. Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 Ask and you will receive. Fr Raymond was happy to continue and answer any questions.
STATION 12 Jesus dies on the Cross.
Please explain the similarities / differences between the Tabernacle in the Synagogue and the Tabernacle in the Church.
The meaning of Tabernacle from the Hebrew is ‘residence’ or ‘dwelling place’. In the Synagogue the sacred Word of God, contained in the Torah scrolls, are housed in the Tabernacle the name of the reserved place. It is the dwelling place of Yahweh among the People of Israel. In the Church the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated in the Lord’s Supper or Last Supper – normally referred to as Mass. During Mass the bread and wine offered by the priest and consumed by priest and people becomes the manifest presence of Jesus Christ. That which is not consumed is reserved in the Tabernacle. It is fitting that the same Hebrew word for the dwelling place of God in the place of worship for both faith communities is used, especially considering the Christian faith is a development of that of the faith of The People of Israel. Fr. Raymond used the scripture of John chapter 6 to support this premise.: Jesus described himself as the bread of life seven times. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke at the Last Supper Jesus takes bread to share it with his followers. He says, ‘This is my body’ , he does the same with a cup of wine saying, ‘This is my blood ’. He does not say ‘This is like my body/blood ’. His intention is interpreted literally in the Catholic Church and Catholics reverence it and celebrate it accordingly.
Please say something about the relationship between the Catholic Church and other faith communities. How does the Catholic Church relate to Hindu Communities, Jewish Communities , Muslim Communities and others ?
Up to The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965) Official doctrine did not recognise salvation outside the Catholic Church. In October 1965 At Vatican II, the Bishops of the Church agreed to the constitution Nostra Aetate, which recognised the injustices experienced by other faith communities in World History. They resolved to accept that all people in some way or another seek out the truth. This is expressed through many forms of religious practice and ideas when they attempt to explain fundamental questions that arise in life. Hinduism, Buddhism and other Abrahamic faiths are recognised as ways of liberating and illuminating life. Without denying any of the tenets of Catholic creed the Church rejects nothing of those things which are true and holy in other ways of life. Especially respected are those faith communities that trace their belief in One God back to Abraham.
Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time (2015), sculpture by Joshua Koffman at the Jesuit-ran Saint Joseph’s University Philadelphia endorsing Nostra Aetate.
How do you perceive other branches of Christianity?
Fr. Raymond explained that he spent two years studying Classical Arabic in Egypt. During this period he came into contact with Coptic Orthodox Christian Communities. He said that although they have their own traditions, practices and doctrines they still recognise the Pope as their leader. Nevertheless they still believe in one God.
Have you visited other places of Worship ?
In Egypt, Fr. Raymond explained that he attended The University of Al-Azhar in Cairo. He became very familiar with the life, language and practices of the Mosque. He said in many ways it was just like visiting some of the grand Churches in the Vatican in Rome.
Your presentation was very interesting, but I feel there was one important aspect missing. You appeared not to mention The Resurrection, which is surely an essential feature in Christianity.
Fr. Raymond apologised and suggested that it was recommended he should only speak for thirty minutes. He excused his omission and agreed, The Resurrection is an important detail he should have spent more time on. In fact he said, it is true to say that without the Resurrection, Christianity is futile. He considered that without the Resurrection of Christ, his role would be more comparable to that of a businessman rather than a minister of religion. Resurrection is the bedrock or pillar of Christianity. He was grateful to the questioner for the opportunity to say so.
At what age is baptism and confirmation appropriate ?
The policy in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton for the baptism of infants is as soon after birth as is possible. Usually within six months to a year. The reason is that through Baptism the infant becomes a child of God. Fr. Raymond challenged the very liberal practice of Catholic parents who might delay the baptism of a child until their son/daughter is of an age to decide for themselves whether or not to be baptised. He compared this notion with a mother who suggested that she would delay breastfeeding her baby until the child had grown and reached the age of reason before she would ask him/her if he/she wishes to be breast fed ? Fr. Raymond intimated that it does not make sense. He developed a reasoning about the purpose of baptism and stressed the staunch belief in the efficacy of baptism from the recommendation of many that baptism should be administered in the unfortunate case of a fetal death. Regarding the authority to baptise, it is the ordinary minister of baptism or the Priest or Deacon. But in extraordinary circumstances, anybody who acknowledges the efficacy of baptism and knows the form of the rite may do so. A person in danger of death who wishes to become a Christian may seek the help of any person, regardless of their belief or lack of it to achieve their wish.
Confirmation is usually administered in adolescence at the age of 14 – 15 years. It does depend on the policy of the Diocesan Bishop where it occurs.
Did you grow up as a Christian and please tell us how you came to be a Priest ?
My Father in Nigeria was not a Christian, he was married to three wives. My mother is the only surviving wife. My father was a trader and owned a business where I lived. He was able to provide his wives and their children places to live and pay for the children to go to school. I still remember the Irish priest who came to baptise the three mothers and gave them communion.
One day I was looking after my father’s sheep and I saw the De La Salle brother who came near to my home which close to the Church. I asked why he had come and I was told that he had come to administer examinations for entry into the junior seminary. I left the sheep with another person and went to see if I could become admitted to the Seminary. I could afford the cost of the examination but I did not tell my parents. None of them knew where I was going or what I was doing. When they announced the results of the examination it meant I had the choice of the Government school or the Seminary. I chose the seminary. Out of 22 who started at Major Seminary after nine years only two of us were left. My class mate was ordained into the Old Catholic Church and is now married, a Bishop and a Lawyer.
How does God speak to us today ?
There are definitely people who appear to hear the voice of God. We call it locution or discerning God’s voice. The voice of God can be heard as if it comes from an external source, the way we usually hear with our ears. But there is also an internal voice that we can detect, which motivates us and moves our hearts. A lady I know of is gifted in this. In fact she will challenge you with what you have said even though she was not present when you said it and tell you word for word what you have said. Does God Speak ? He speaks to us. There are others who are further gifted with visions. Scripture says discern the Spirit, and so we must listen as God speaks to us in whatever way. Sometimes He speaks to us through each other.
In my community we believe in the divinity of every Human Being. In greeting one other we are recognising the divinity in the other. You seem very young,- you must have experienced many distractions in your life – and yet you became a person of religion – did you experience a call from up there ?
No there were no revelations, it was a very ordinary process of talking examinations and passing them that was the challenge. Many where I lived said, “These Augustinians are evil”, and ran away from them. I ran in the opposite direction towards them. Whereas others were sent away every year I managed to stay and never regretted it.
What happens to a person when he or she dies ?
Fr. Raymond referred to the Nicene Creed which says – I believe in the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting-. Despite the fact that when the body dies, it decomposes. Christians believe that the Soul is incorruptible and lives on, it is everlasting. Scripture says that at the end of this age, Christ will return to gather the righteous souls for God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
The Qur’an Sura 3 v 55 ‘When Allah said, “‘Isa, I will take you back and raise you up to Me and purify you of those who are disbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are disbelievers until the Day of Rising. Then you will all return to Me, and I will judge between you regarding the things about which you differed.’
Likewise, Christians recognise that Jesus’ parousia will initiate the just judgement of God. For those who have lived a life worthy of the mercy of God,their reward will be equivalent to it in Heaven. If through life, they do not deserve the mercy of God, then it will be as if they will be unable to withstand and endure God’s brilliant light. Catholics acknowledge that some will need to be purged of their faults in order to be in God’s presence and all His brilliance. Purgatory is an idea of a place, that assists our limited understanding of what we can never know. In the same way we imagine what it would be like if a soul was denied being in the presence of God completely, by virtue of the wrong they committed in life. We live in a World limited by time and space, but we should understand that those dimensions do not apply in God.
Please explain the different category of sinfulness.
Fr. Raymond referred previously to a distinction between Mortal sin and Venial sin. He explained that sin is an offence against God. The offence is gauged according to its seriousness. It can be self directed, causing a negative effect on the self, it can be projected towards, others causing a negative effect on others or indeed it could be a negation in one’s relationship with God. Mortal sin is a deadly, intentional and deliberate breaking of God’s law that cannot easily be adjusted. Venial sin is a choice which is a disorder, that opts to weaken charity towards self or others.
Confession is the sacrament of reconciliation through which all sins are forgiven. Regardless of the level of sinfulness, the Priest has no right to be shocked by what the confessor admits to. It is the merciful God of justice who forgives through the agency of the Priest. The Priest is bound by his solemn vows, not to reveal any of the confidences the confessor has disclosed. These things will go to the grave with him.
It is only the Priest who can offer God’s forgiveness, this authority is not available to lay people.
Fr. Raymond thanked all for their attention and interesting questions. He invited all to continue the evening and to enjoy the refreshments provided.
Some of the interested representatives of different Crawley Groups :