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Surfing for God View Comments
By Kathy M. Alford

DRIVE ALONG the sandy beaches in New Smyrna, Florida, near the inlet when the surf is up, and you’re likely to see a 12-foot, wooden cross planted in the sand in front of a white Nissan Xterra. If you hang around awhile, you’re bound to run into the guy who planted it there.

His name is George Alford, and although this 67-year-old just won the Eastern Surfing Association’s Grand Legends Championship for the second year running, most folks in these parts know him simply as “the guy with the cross.”

Some people think he’s a minister or a priest, but he’s not—at least not in the classic sense of those words. George counts his mission to surfers and other beachgoers as one of his most important ministries, right behind his vocation as a husband, father of nine children/stepchildren, and grandfather of 12.

Here’s what happens: after morning Mass, George drives to the beach. First thing he does when he gets there is pull out his shovel and dig a hole about a foot deep. Then he lifts the big cross down from the same roof racks that hold his surfboards, stands the cross in the hole, and hard-packs sand around the base to hold it in place.

After a few warm-up exercises and a prayer, George waxes up his surfboard and heads for the waves, where opportunities for faith-sharing with other surfers often crop up while waiting in the lineup. While George finds it doesn’t take much to get people talking about their faith experiences and their unanswered questions, he has also discovered that the conversations often go much deeper, with beachgoers asking probing questions about God, Church, and the pains and problems of life.

One of the first questions that people ask George is: Why do you plant a cross in front of your SUV at the beach? Another is: What gave you this idea? The answers to these questions lie in a story that begins back in 2004 with George’s entry into the world of surfing.

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Kathy M. Alford is a retired teacher. She and her husband, George, the subject of this article, are members of St. Peter Catholic Church in DeLand, Florida.

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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

 
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