Mrs Turnstone and I grabbed a cup of tea and a quick bite after getting up late one Sunday morning, then off to Mass. I could not help but remember a passage from Father Gerard Rathe’s Mud and Mosaics, an account of his ‘missionary journey’ through Africa in 1960. Here he has just arrived in what is now Mali.
We drove through the city gate [of Mopti] and round to the river. On the steps of what looked like a large warehouse we saw Monsignor Landru, the Prefect Apostolic,+ a lively, clean shaven little man, who took us into the house where we enjoyed a glass of cold water before saying Mass.
I wonder if the Holy Father ever thought of the tremendous refreshment he would be giving priests like ourselves, when he said: “Water does not break the Eucharistic Fast”.*
You have to go to the tropics, anyway, to appreciate cold water. Leo, our photographer, preferred beer, and we left him perspiring and content in a deck chair as we went to the church. We were on a tiny Christian island in a sea of Islam and I offered my Mass for this handful of missionaries and for the conversion of the Dogon people on whom they pin their hopes.
We are blessed to live in less rule-bound times, when we can more easily respond to the Lord’s invitation to take and eat.
+ A priest who leads the church in a territory that is not yet big enough to be a diocese. * Pius XII had relaxed the rules on fasting to allow Catholics to take liquids up to an hour before receiving Communion, though solid food was still prohibited from midnight.