Tag Archive: Saint


AMDG
cannonizationIt with a sad heart I leave Dodoma – but never before have I seen a city grow so fast. When the great independence president, Julius Nyerere, the father of Tanzania, designated Dodoma as the capital rather than the sprawling port of Dar Es Salaam, it raised a few eyebrows. Back then in 1973, it was a small town that the Germans had developed along with the railway. Right in the centre of the country, it was at times a semi-arid dust bowl…. you can see the previous Prime Minister Pinda remembering the whirlwinds when we interviewed him in 2011. However visiting on and off over the last 9 years it has grown beyond recognition.

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Bunge2Nyerere, who became a Catholic at the age of 21, said that he was always a ‘schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident’. He stands out amongst the ‘Fathers of Africa’ (that post-independence generation of African leaders) in two ways, the peaceful way he relinquished power after 20 years and the simplicity and asceticism with which he lived. He was a daily mass goer and fasted regularly and in 2005 the Catholic Diocese of Musoma opened his cause for beatification. His economic legacy, however, is controversial, but his legacy in social development and leaving behind a peaceful country is impressive. With regards to Dodoma, Nyerere wanted the capital city to be in the centre of the country so that it could have a unifying effect, being equally accessible to all, bringing the tribes together – rather than becoming a bubble for the political elite in Dar. The ‘Bunge’, the national assembly or parliament has been sitting in Dodoma since 1996. Although many offices remain in Dar, the politicians decamp every year to live in Dodoma, the ministers have built houses, and along with them comes the usual entourage of advisors, lobbyists, business people. We had a lovely dinner with one of the entrepreneurial families in the parish who have opened a hotel – and much of their business is reliant on this custom.

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slider-11It is wonderful to visit as a Jesuit as you are inserted into the heart of the community, even though you are a mzungu.  The impressive Jesuit Parish with 1600 at mass is warm and welcoming, with amazing choirs.
The Jewel in the crown for our visits to Dodoma is St Ignatius Prep & Primary school. It is a very special place, and a lot of that is down to Sister Euphrasia, who has thrown her whole heart into building up the community. Some of the best teachers in Dodoma have followed her, even taking pay cuts – because they prefer working in the loving atmosphere of the school than many other schools which are run more like a business, and they are micromanaged. I suppose the great challenge for Euphrasia is one that I have been pondering on myself recently, how do you set up something that doesn’t totally rely on your personality, i.e. that is apostolically resilient, and doesn’t fizzle out when you are gone.

AMDG  –  Doubting Thomas and Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday – we had three things converging – Doubting Thomas, Divine Mercy Sunday as instituted by St JPII, and also Pope Francis announcement of an extraordianry Jubilee Year of Mercy (to begin on Dec 8th) ….. I shameless tried to squeeze them all in to my homily …

Today we hear the famous post-resurrection encounter of Jesus with ‘Doubting Thomas’….. who refuses to believe that Jesus is truly risen unless he can but his fingers in his wounds.

Why did Thomas did his heels in – and refuse to believe that Jesus was Risen?  Why did he demand special proof? Why wasn’t he satisfied like the other disciples?

Because Thomas loved Jesus – and when we love we also know that we our heart has also been exposed to being hurt.  Anyone who has experienced the death of someone they love…..  anyone who has seen a relationship disintegrate…. Anyone who has been left by someone they love knows the hurt and pain that follows.  Jesus mission had ended abruptly – Thomas after witnessing the miracles, the great crowds… was convinced that this was the Son of God.  He had left everything to follow him …. And then in confusion and dread witnessed his arrest, he had run away to save his own life but heard about Jesus being tortured, heard about his public and humiliating death.  The experience of Holy Week that we have just passed through had left the disciple frightened, disorientated and disillusioned.

So stubborn Thomas, having been so deeply hurt because of his love for Jesus, is reluctant to raise his hope again.  When we human being are hurt so often we react like hedgehogs and curl up into a little ball, nursing grudges, becoming angry and bitter.  But look at Jesus’s response – Jesus who had been abandoned by his disciples, who had been tortured and killed in a humiliating way – but now the risen glorious Jesus, still bearing his wounds, his first words are not of blame and retribution but of peace and mercy.

A modern doubting Thomas

‘ Peace be with you ‘   and to Thomas  ‘ Doubt no longer and believe’ … and Thomas makes one of the most beautiful declarations of faith in the Bible ‘ My Lord and My God’ – and then Jesus  commissioned to the Disciples to spread this message of peace and mercy, the forgiveness of sins.

The difference between our human experience of being hurt, and how we nurture grudges and find it difficult to forgive and the divine mercy is great.  So it is beautiful that Saint John Paul II has named this Sunday Divine Mercy Sunday and dedicated it to the visions that Sr  Faustina of Krakow had just before WW2,  She died a year before the Nazi’s occupied Poland which lead to some terrible years, firstly with the Nazi Occupation and followed by the Communist Occupation, a period which John Paul referred to as the crucifixion of Poland.  The most famous of the visions was the lord revealing his sacred heart with rays of white and red light flowing from it as we can see at the font of the church by the lectern …. Coming at the start of the 20th Century – the most violent, most genocidal, most hate filled period in world history …..  In the face of this violence and hatred – God reveals his mercy.

What is mercy -?  Coming from –misericordia – mercy is a deep loving identification in others suffering  ….  Mercy is the very essence of God, not just one attribute amongst many….. Psalm 113 reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever and a merciful Church is what Pope Francis longs for….  Pope Francis today has declared this year – to be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church …. He has published a bull for the called Misericordia Vultus……   Saying  “The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love……  we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair

I think we should take this invitation seriously.  As well as an increased participation in the Sacrament of Confession – so that we can experience God’s Mercy ….  Let’s remember the seven corporal works of mercy are: 1. Feed the hungry.
2. Give drink to the thirsty.
3. Clothe the naked. 4. Shelter the homeless.
5. Visit the sick.
6. Visit the imprisoned. 7. Bury the dead. And the seven spiritual works of mercy are: 1. Counsel the doubtful.
2. Instruct the ignorant.
3. Admonish sinners.
4. Comfort the afflicted.
5. Forgive offences.
6. Bear wrongs patiently.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.  Anyone who is interested in how we can implement this more – students and non-students …. Come and see me …. We already have exceptional things like the foodbank, homeless runs, running breakfast clubs in local primary schools but we can do more … come and see me if you are interested.  How will you respond to this extraordinary Jubilee of God’s Mercy?

Wolf Hall & Hagiophobia*

AMDG

tumblr_m9yucbzytr1r6bdhjo1_12801 *Hagiophobia,  I have just discovered is the fear of saints or Holy things…. ok so we are all familiar with Vampires cowering from crucifixes, or troubled by holy water, but I am thinking about a more subtle and perhaps more serious form of cultural hagiophobia.

Christopher Hitchens’ almost visceral hatred of Mother Teresa would be an example of this, his book the Missionary Position, is a classic case of a hatchet job.  But at least Hitchens described himself as a polemicist and was quite open about this.  However Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall and its sequels contain a more subtle but equally relentless character assassination of St Thomas More.  Her distorted and cruel caricature of one of the great figures of the Tudor times,  is a great calumny.

Mantel, raised a Roman Catholic and educated at convent school, has turned her back on the church of her youth with an unusual and unbalanced venom. In an interview in the Telegraph she said “ I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.”  With the stroke of a pen she condemns 1.2 billion people.  At the time I remember reading many comments expressing relief that we have been saved from the ‘respectability’ that Mantel obviously craves.  And she has achieved that respectability in glorious fashion with back to back Booker Prizes and now wall-to-wall gushing praise for the BBC adaptation of her books.

utopia-thomas-more-paperback-cover-artThis leaves me very uneasy, as one of the biggest problems that a post-Christian culture faces is a cultural amnesia. A lack of historical grasp can be dangerous, repeating mistiakes and underpinning prejudices.  This portrayal of More as a zealous monster, and Cromwell the destroyer of the monasteries, as a hero, flies in the face of history.   This is important as so many of viewing the series will see this as history, my atheist sister after reading the books declared with a certain provocative pleasure – what an unpleasant character More was.  The vast majority of historians describe More as one of the intellectual greats of Europe, a renaissance man, the author of Utopia, great friend of Erasmus who worked for the reform of the church from the inside.  As the newspapers are full of gushing praise about Wolf Hall – they focus on the lavish production values, the great acting, its what the BBC does best, historical dramas – and I can see the producers eyes filling up with dollar signs as they anticipate the DVD box sales, and BBC Worldwide licks it lips anticipating the sales to foreign broadcasters.  The problem is the History Sucks – and we will be exporting it around the world and most people will be watching it as fact.

The series has just been reviewed on Thinking Faith 

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