A World of Prayer was launched on Thursday 10th May 2012, 6:30pm at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Lavender Bay (North Sydney) NSW.
Dr. Julian Droogan, a prominent presenter on religion, culture, art and world history, launched the book. The text of his remarks is reproduced below.
Please click on the photo below to go to our Facebook page where you can browse all photos of the launch.
In my job I meet a lot of people who talk about religion; people who discuss and debate about the positive and the negative aspects of the different great world religions, and about religion itself.
Surprisingly, however, I meet comparatively fewer people who actually live religion; people who ascribe to one of the faiths which have nourished our civilizations from ancient times and the individuals that make them up; people who put their devotion to a greater principle first, and humble themselves before the mystery.
But I would like to tell you that I meet almost nobody like Ros; a person who both talks and lives her own religion, but in her own way, also all religions. Ros’ devotion and selflessness in creating this book embodies so effortlessly the compassionate, ethical and devotional core of not just her own Catholic faith, and Jewish heritage, or the Buddhism, Hinduism of Islam of her other companions in dialog, but of religion itself.
It is this selfless devotion, and real spirituality – flowing from a personal and ethical engagement with faith – that is found at the core of this lovely and important book of payer.
So, this book is about prayer – a book of prayers – but in a way this book also is a prayer. Not to one religion or to one god, but to all religions and to the divine in general. It is truly universal and global, reflecting so well the increasingly interconnected and global world that we live in today.
But there is no mushy sentimentalism here. Neither Ros, nor her other companions in dialog, fall into the easy but mistaken trap of claiming all religions are simply one and the same.
Each of the prayers in this book reveals a different facet of the human quest to know the divine; some are light-hearted, some serious, some devotional, some joyous, some very ancient and hallowed by use – up to 40,000 years!, others are more recent. All, however, are moving.
This is true also for each of the religions that sit silently and patiently behind the words. They are alike in their sentiments, but they not the same. As Ros has stated so boldly, and I believe correctly, in her introduction:
“Each of the world’s main religions offers insight into the mystery of human life, as each reflects its own cultural and historical context.”
I especially like Ros’ use of the word ‘mystery’ – a word that we perhaps do not hear as often as we might today. A book like this allows us to re-access the mysterious in our lives, to commune across borders with others who have been on the same quest – and sometimes we are separated from these people across vast volumes of space and time. But our prayers connect us.
The similarities between the world’s religions are striking, and the universality of prayer is one of the most immediate and personal of these similarities. It is the recognition of this universality of prayer is one of the most important contributions that this book makes.
We live at a time when religion is often in the headlines, on TV and at the top of our minds – but often for the wrong reasons. At a time when religion and the acts of the self-professedly religious are so often associated with ignorance, fear and terror, it is so important for us to read and think about prayer. It is one of the universal acts of faith that brings us together as a collective, rather than tears us apart. So often, prayer humbles us in the face of the mystery.
I am often asked by my students ‘what is the prayer good for? Why should we even consider it?’
Prayer allows us to access the common values of our species, and – again in the words of Ros – “to deepen our inner capacity for compassion through meditation and inner peace”. Prayer is deeply personal, but it is also expansive. It can link us with the wider world, and indeed with the cosmos.
Whether you happen to be religious or not (you might be a believer, an atheist, unsure, wavering?), this book holds within it many pearls of great wisdom.
And on one level, it is a very human and humane wisdom.
For in our prayers we yearn.
As the Sufi poet Rumi says so eloquently (and I know that Ros likes Rumi very much):
“Listen to the story told by the reed, of being separated.
Since I was cut from the reedbed, I have made this crying sound.
Anyone separated from the one he loves understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back”.
The world or prayer is our collective song of returning. Not just to the divine, but perhaps also – in a mysterious sense – to our deepest selves.
For, when we talk about, and to, god we are also talking about, and to, our own selves. But I do not mean in a vain or in a profane manner. I mean that in discussing God, or better ‘the divine’ or ‘the sacred’, we also in some intangible way, touch on the ethical and spiritual essence of humanity. True prayers are never selfish, they are never dark, they do not express hatred or anger or revenge – they open us up to a greater truth in humbleness and in joy. They lead to expansion. Collectively, I know they make the world a much better place.
One of the main themes of this book is the oneness of humanity seen though our love of the divine – and with this as a spiritual anchor Ros is content to let her own faith ebb and flow and to live the mystery. In this I am in total agreement.
For this insight alone, I would recommend this book – but within its pages it holds so much more. I invite all of you to explore its contents and find for yourself your own prayer through which to anchor your lives.
Finally, a small prayer to Ros, please don’t sell all of the books this evening – I would like you to leave at least a few for my students…