‘We are all Missionaries’, says Bishop Patrick. That should be true in Kent or Kentucky, just as in Zambia. Follow the link!
‘We are all Missionaries’, says Bishop Patrick. That should be true in Kent or Kentucky, just as in Zambia. Follow the link!
The Cathedral of Notre Dame du Bourg in Digne is built over a Christian church from Roman times.
Saint Vincent was from North Africa, a Christian citizen of the Empire, free to travel anywhere, who was sent to the walled town of Digne in the mountains north of Nice.
Pope Saint Miltiades gathered a council in 313. The persecutions which saw the death of another Saint Vincent, the Deacon of Valencia, were over, after Constantine had allowed freedom of worship to Christians. The problem now lay within the church, especially in North Africa: what to do about people who had handed over books and church property to the Imperial authorities. The Donatist party felt strongly that they had lost their right to belong to the church, but the Pope and Council decreed that there should be every opportunity for reconciliation.
Vincent travelled with Marcellinus and Domninus to the council with the African bishops, and impressed Pope Militades, who sent them as missionaries to Provence. Marcellinus became the first bishop of Embrun, Domninus bishop of Digne. Vincent would be his successor.
This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers.
We pray, ‘hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy.’ Here we see a queen crowned and wearing the gold collar-necklace associated with West African Kings. That crown would be impossibly heavy in real life, but she is erect, neck straight. The serene half-smile suggests that Shakespeare’s words ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ do not apply to this Lady, Our Lady.
And why is she a queen at all? True, she was of David’s line, but the crown, like the British crown, bears the Cross as its crest – not a serpent as in ancient Egypt, the only African country we know she lived in. She is under her Son’s protection but she knows suffering and it does not weigh her down.
Those open hands could be welcoming a child running home from the playground or school (a place that sometimes can feel like an exile from home). Her hands are open, a gesture of peace.
Mary’s eyes are looking down at whoever is approaching her, but her whole being is under the sign of the Cross. What does she tell us?
‘Do whatever He tells you.’
And if you do, signs of his Kingdom will be seen. (John 2).
Mary was the catalyst for a great sign at Cana; what will people discern when they listen to us and observe us this year? Will they see us, or will they see him, or perhaps, like the wedding planner at Cana, they will see something marvellous but not take it in. But we are children of Eve, not glorious unless by reflection: non nobis Domine!
On this feast of the Mother of Our Lord I pass on this story from the Missionaries of Africa about a new
Benedictine Abbey of sisters in Zambia.
Let us pray for them and our own sisters at Minster.
Mary Queen and Gate of Heaven, pray for them.
Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, pray for them.
Saint Mildred, pray for them.
Lord God, we ask you to bless these your servants and keep them dedicated to you. Amen.
I suggested yesterday that there is something ridiculous – humanly speaking – about the whole Christmas story. But we love stories! Books, TV, films, The Archers on the radio, all have their followers – and their detractors. We learn who we are through stories.
When training as a teacher I reviewed a children’s picture book about the Rhine, a few words and some rather good photographs, including the Lorelei Rock. After the story of the sirens luring boats to destruction was told the young reader was asked, Do you think this story is true?
Abel is now eighteen months, a little young to listen to stories, but not too young to tell himself some. Among his words are digger, car, and brrrrm. Enough to start conversations in what some people call the real world, as he points to his Dad’s or his grandmother’s car. Enough to recognise a toy digger as a digger, and push it along, brrrrm. Enough to recognise a cartoon of a car on a tiny sticker given to me by one of his Auntie’s pupils. Is it a true car?
The idea of a car does not depend on size for Abel. Yes, some will dismiss the toy and sticker as unreal. But as Fr Kurzynski suggested yesterday, we are in danger of just not getting it. Small and big may well look different from a divine point of view. Or even from a deeply human one – see our post “A World of my own?” last May 14.
In this life, Jesus started off very small … Be grateful for small mercies.
And let’s pray today for mercy on innocent children suffering in war zones in Congo, Syria and elsewhere.
Don’t worry! I am not sending you to a difficult theological treatise or a long sermon. Instead, let’s sit down at table with Augustine. His biographer, Possidius tells us:
He always showed hospitality… He had this inscription on his table:
Who injures the name of an absent friend
May not at this table as guest attend.
Cited in Christianity in Africa, the first seven centuries,
Dominique Arnauld, STS Publications, Jerusalem, 2015, p464.
Wise words indeed as we approach ever closer to the celebration of Christ’s coming and the festive meal. Pour a cup of tea and think about it! Happy Christmas!
Though ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas had been all unaware, the day of their visit to the monastery at Minton was the feast of St. Domniva, its foundress. In the course of the various services they attended throughout their stay and by recourse to some fragments of conversation had with a few of the more knowledgeable of the nuns, ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas were able to piece together bits of her fascinating story. It seemed that Domniva (before she became a saint) had been a princess of one of the royal Anglo-Saxon houses and a renowned world traveler. There was a massive amount of (circumstantial) evidence indicating that one of her journeys may have even taken her- along with a sizeable entourage since she was, after all, a princess- to sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that she discovered a rare and wonderful animal in the sprawling market of a nameless and long-vanished city called a dik-dik. Smitten by its elegant grace, the noble Domniva purchased the animal for a magnificent sum and brought it back with her when she returned to the foggy shores of East Kent.
The dik-dik appeared as a perfectly formed young deer…except that its coat of dense fur was a soft, buff-gray peppered with nearly invisible spots. For all that the magnificent animal resembled a member of any number of herds ranging the length and breadth of the Five Kingdoms, it only stood around six inches tall; a miniature version of its British cousins with ebony hoofs no larger than the tip of its mistress’ forefinger. Used to a much warmer clime in the dense acacia forests of its African homeland, it nevertheless also was able to appreciate the overgrown nature of the English countryside (and nearly all of England was countryside in the late seventh century) and, discovering that a brisk frisk was an excellent way to dodge the chill, it soon began to thrive. Everyone who saw it fell instantly in love. Perhaps, the dik-dik should not be referred to as an ‘it’ since it was a young stag, sporting a full rack of arching antlers, and proudly answered to the name Boanerges, which the Lady Domniva had given it.
At some point in time there was a blood feud, as seemed so common among royalty then and now and, in order to make things right, the king of Kent decided to build a monastery. Fortunately for the king, the Lady Domniva had also become very pious and wished to retire from the tiresome frivolities of life at court. And so it was settled- Domniva would found the monastery and serve as its first abbess. A site was duly chosen on the shore of the mighty Wansum river, which, bisecting a large mass of land, created the Isle of Thanet. It was then that the dik-dik established himself forever in the annals of England and lore of the great southeast.
To be continued
If it were not Sunday, this would be the feast of the Guardian Angels.
People who are sceptical about angels should bear in mind scientists’ speculation about parallel – or is it intersecting universes? Talk of angels as ‘pure spirits’ and I’m lost; if they exist in some parallel universe, they are almost completely different to us. Almost, but not quite. If, as Jesus tells his disciples, children have guardian angels, they must have ways to relate to their charges.
See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Fr Gerald Scriven M.Afr. wrote a series of children’s books, now very dated, about an apprentice guardian angel nicknamed Wopsy. His first posting was to a small boy somewhere in Africa. One sentence struck me as worth sharing today:
Wopsy wasn’t a bit afraid of devils, for whom he had a great contempt, quite out of proportion to his size.
From: Wopsy, Adventures of a Guardian Angel, at http://www.thepelicans.co.uk/mc11.htm
Whether you believe you have a guardian angel or not, pray for the courage to face evil or sin, however it presents itself, and the wisdom to know what to do about it. And thank God for the times you’ve been kept safe in body, mind or spirit, perhaps well against the odds, as humans see things.
For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.
And pray that, unlike Cain, (Genesis 4:9) we may be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers or indeed guardians.
I was with a Missionary of Africa, fifty years a priest, mostly in Northern Ghana, where both faiths live side-by-side.
‘Always, if I wanted to do something, I would go to the mosque and I would talk to the Imam, and be seen talking to the Imam. Do nothing without telling him, then he knows you are not trying to undermine him or his people. Always, always Muslims are included, try to do nothing separately, be sure that the whole community can benefit.
‘Do not confine your work only to the poorest. You could be seen as undermining the better-off, especially if some of them are Muslim and see the poor Christians or traditional believers being helped, becoming organised, as a threat. Always be open.
Today, in my prison work in Holland, I share an office with the Muslim chaplain. I insisted, yes. Our door is always open. The prisoners walk by – many of them are Moroccan – they see us laughing together, they stop, they think, ‘What is this?’
We are all called to be missionaries, as Pope Francis insists, so stop, think, ‘What are we doing, what should we be doing, as witnesses to Christ among our neighbours?’
Surah II, 196. Al-Baqarah (The Cow)
‘Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Mecca) for Allah. And if ye are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the first have reached their destination.
And whoever among you is sick or hath an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if ye are in safety, then whosoever contenteth himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts) then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when ye have returned, that is, ten in all.
That is for him whose folk are not present at the Inviolable Place of Worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.’
Commonly called the ‘Eid-ul-Kabir’ (the Great Festival) in North Africa, it is also called ‘Tabaski’ in West Africa, ‘Tafaska’ among the Berber and ‘Kurban Bayrami’ in Turkey.
Eid-ul-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice) is one of the most important Muslim Festivals. Each year, it marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and takes place on the 10th day of the month of Dou Al Hijja, the last month of the Muslim calendar. This year, the Festival is celebrated on the 12th September 2016 (in France). We are in the 1437th year since the Hegira of Mohammed to Medina. It lasts 4 days and is celebrated throughout the world. It is the Great (kabir) Festival of the Muslim world.
This Festival commemorates the submission to God of the Patriarch Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son at his command (Ishmael, according to Muslim tradition, or Isaac according to the Bible; the Koran does not make the name of the son explicit.)
On the eve of Eid-ul-Kabir, everything is purified; houses are cleaned from top to bottom; every cloth, down to the smallest duster, is conscientiously laundered.
Every Muslim family according to their means, sacrifice an animal (a ewe, goat, sheep, cow or camel) by slitting its throat while laid on its left flank, the head towards Mecca. A portion of the meat from this sacrifice will benefit the most destitute among the Muslims, thus asserting the solidarity and mutual assistance prescribed by Allah.
It is a day of reconciliation, where each one is invited to pardon whoever wronged him.
The dates listed are subject to a variation of one or two days according to the visibility of the moon in different regions. These festivities may provide the opportunity to our Christian communities to offer their good wishes for the festival to our Muslim neighbours, especially if there is a Muslim place of worship in the same locality.
This post is copied from the Missionaries of Africa’s website , where you can learn more about Islam and Christianity. MMB.