Sunday, January 20, 2019

NIGERIA'S PATRON SAINT


I don’t normally get involved in this Blog in politics- especially foreign countries I know nothing about-  but the killings in African countries is disheartening. Nigeria was in the news  last week and reminds me of the feast January 20 of a Nigerian monk.


 
Seven people were killed in Rann when Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in remote northeast Nigeria, setting fire to shelters for those displaced by the conflict. Rann currently hosts around 35,000 internally displaced people according to the International Organization for Migration. It has been repeatedly hit in the conflict, exacerbating already dire humanitarian conditions on the ground. The Islamist insurgency which began in 2009 has killed more than 27,000 and some 1.8 million people are still homeless.

But this brings us to our saint of the day-BLESSED CYPRIAN MICHAEL IWENE TANSI who was a Trappist monk and is Nigeria’s patron saint.

Born to non-Christian parents in 1903, he was sent to live with his Christian uncle who gave him an education.  Holy Trinity School in Onitsha, which was run by the .Holy Ghost Fathers, meant  a better education that would help lead the family out of poverty

 He was baptized 3 years later by the  Irish missionaries. Bl. Cyprian was a diligent student with a precocious personality and deep piety. When Iwene was a young child, he became permanently blinded in one eye as a result of a mud-fight with other children.

He worked as a teacher for 3 years and later served as a headmaster of St. Joseph’s school for one year in Aguleri.

In 1925 against the wishes of his family, he entered St. Paul’s Seminary in Igbariam and was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Onitsha in 1937.  He had to travel on foot to visit his widely scattered parishes, spending whole days hearing confessions and was always available to the people in their needs. The large Christian populations of many Igbo villages are a present witness to his zeal.

He felt the call to serve God in a more direct way in a life of contemplation and prayer and, if possible to bring the contemplative monastic life to Nigeria. In 1950 his Bishop was able to free him to try his vocation at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, near Nottingham, England, and to be trained in view of founding a contemplative monastery in the diocese of Onitsha. His new name in the monastery was Father Cyprian. The complete change of lifestyle, particularly living under obedience when he had been a leader of people, the change of climate, food and most of all the culture shock were severe tests, but he was convinced that this is where God wanted him to be.

In 1962 Mount Saint Bernard decided to make the foundation in Africa, but for political reasons it was made in the neighboring country of Cameroon, near Bamenda, rather than in Nigeria. Although he was appointed as Novice Master of the foundation, Father Cyprian was too sick to go. In January 1964, the intense pain in one of his legs was diagnosed as a result of acute thrombosis. However, admitted unconscious on 19 January to the Royal Infirmary of Leicester, tests revealed an aortic neurism, a condition that led to his death the next morning. He died on January 20, a few months after the departure of the founders. 

Interestingly enough, the process for his beatification was first opened in the diocese of Nottingham, but then transferred in 1986 to the Archdiocese of Onitsha. The Archbishop was the present Cardinal Francis Arinze, who had been among the first children baptized by Father Tansi when the latter was a young parish priest.

He is called the Patron Saint of Nigeria’s Democracy because soon after his Beatification in 1998, Nigeria  was miraculously delivered from the tyrannical rule of the military dictator, General Sani Abacha and returned to democracy in 1999.

Mount. Saint Bernard Abbey

Bl. Cyprian used to say, “if you are going to be a Christian at all, you might as well live entirely for God”.
He died on 20 January 1964 and was beatified on 22 March 1998 by Saint John Paul in Nigeria

Speaking in a homily to over three million faithful that gathered for the Papal Mass at Onitsha for the Beatification of Fr. Tansi on 22 March 1998, the visiting Pope St. John Paul II said:

"Today I wish to proclaim [to Nigerians] the importance of reconciliation: reconciliation with God and reconciliation of people among themselves… When we see others as brothers and sisters, it is possible to begin healing the divisions within society. This is the reconciliation, which is the path to true peace and authentic progress for Nigeria and for Africa."

The saintly Pope also said:
He was first of all a man of God: his long hours before the Blessed Sacrament filled his heart with generous and courageous love. Those who knew him testify to his great love of God. Everyone who met him was touched by his personal goodness. He was then a man of the people: he always put others before himself, and was especially attentive to the pastoral needs of families. He took great care to prepare couples well for Holy Matrimony and preached the importance of chastity. He tried in every way to promote the dignity of women. In a special way, the education of young people was precious to him.


I

Friday, January 18, 2019

SAINT OF CHRISTIAN UNITY




The Week of Prayer for CHRISTIAN UNITY is an international Christian ecumenical observance kept annually between 18 January and 25 January. It is an octave ,that is, an observance lasting eight days.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity, and focused on prayer for church unity. The dates of the week were proposed by Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars. He conceived of the week beginning on the Feast of the Confession of Peter, the Protestant variant of the ancient Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, on 18 January, and concluding with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on 25 January.

Pope Pius X officially blessed the concept, and Benedict XV "encouraged its observance throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church."



A saint who gave her life to unity among Christians was BL. MARIA GABRIELLA  SAGHEDDU who was born to a family of shepherds. As a child she was described as obstinate, critical, protesting, and rebellious – but loyal, and obedient; she would say no to a request – but act on it at once. At 18 she became gentler, her temper abated, she became involved in prayer and charity, and joined “Azione Cattolic,” a Catholic youth movement.

She was born in Sardinia in 1914. At 21 she entered the Trappestine monastery of Grottaferrata. When she was accepted, her attitude finally became “Now do what You will.” When the community’s leader explained a request for prayer and offering for the great cause of Christian Unity, Maria Gabriella felt compelled to offer her young life to the cause. Though she’d never been sick before, she suddenly developed tuberculosis. In a mere 15 months spent in prayer for Unity, it took her to her death in 1939.

Her body found incorrupt in 1957. Not only is she the patroness of ecumenism, but also against poverty and sickness.




Pope John Paul II proclaimed:
A model which I consider exemplary, the model of a Trappestine Sister, Blessed Maria Gabriella of Unity, whom I beatified on 25 January 1983. Sister Maria Gabriella, called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to meditation and prayer centered on Chapter 17 of Saint John's Gospel and offered her life for Christian Unity. This is truly the cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one’s life to the Father; through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. The example of Sister Mara Gabriella is instructive; it helps us to understand that there are no special times, situations, or places of prayer for unity. Christ's prayer to the Father is offered as a model for everyone, always and everywhere."




Monday, January 14, 2019

HOLINESS IN ART




One of our favorite nuns, a TV personality, died at the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham in Norfolk right after Christmas, at the grand age of 88. All in our Community were avid fans of her programsi n the early 1990s on great art. 

This little known religious soared to international fame presenting her series of popular and unscripted art programs for the BBC.  Her popular shows included Sister Wendy's Odyssey (1992) and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour (1994).

SISTER WENDY BECKETT was born in South Africa in 1930, she was still a child when her family moved to Edinburgh, where her father studied medicine. She joined the Sisters of Notre Dame at the age of 16  and was sent to Oxford University in 1950, where she was awarded a Congratulatory First Class degree in English literature, before a stint teaching in South Africa. But persistent heart trouble and a history of epilepsy drained her strength. Health problems combined with the dream of a contemplative life, which she had abandoned when she entered her order of teaching nuns, brought her back to England.

In the early 1970s, she was released from her vows as a Sister of Notre Dame and changed her religious status to “consecrated virgin,” with the blessing of the Vatican. From then on, she was not a member of any religious order, yet still wore a homemade black habit, a variation on the one she wore as a Sister of Notre Dame.  Carmelites in Norfolk  offered her a home on their property and took care of her for the rest of her life. They delivered her meals to the unheated blue trailer and in return  she contributed most of her income to the convent.

Sister Wendy began studying fine art in the 1980s and began her art career as a magazine critic, reviewing exhibitions for small British art journals. She decided to write a book to raise money for the convent. Contemporary Women Artists, published in 1988, was the first of many books and articles.

Sister Wendy became well-loved for her unusual presenting style, which saw her discuss featured paintings in depth and without an auto-cue. She was not a physically striking figure with her almost buck teeth and her tendency to pronounce “r” as if it were “w”, yet she won the hearts of all who watched her with her keen wit and insight on the art she presented. 

"Art is beauty and God is beauty. If you can get people to look at art; you are bringing them closer to Him, even if they don't know His name."

"My own definition of beauty is that which perpetually satisfies us. You look at it again and again and there is more of it to satisfy us. I would say that beauty is very much an attribute of God - He is essential beauty. But only those of us who have been fortunate enough to have faith know where beauty comes from. For the others, they are responding to beauty and responding to Him, though they mightn't be aware of that - they are responding to the pure, free, strong, loving spirit of God."


My favorite of all the books she wrote, did not deal with art, but rather her spiritual letters to the many  who sought her wisdom.  In the preface she has written a charming and very personal short autobiography, setting  the  letters in their context. 

As she joins the Lord in a better place, she has left us much food for thought.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

SAINTS FOR THE NEW YEAR


“The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.”
                         St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross




In looking for new saints, I am amazed to find so few Benedictines or monastics of any order up for canonization- a lot of Franciscans though.  That is because other orders go out to missionarize or be with the people whereas monks and nuns stay home in their monasteries and pray, so are less known to outsiders for their holiness. We forget that saints walked with ordinary people who were clueless as to their holiness. I sometimes wonder how many people I encounter day by day are among the ranks of  those we call saints? 
Pause for thought in our new year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

FLAME OF CHARITY IN THE ANDES






In December of 2018 a great man died in PERU where he had given his life for the peoples there.  He was 94.

PADRE UGO  de CENSI SCARAFONI was born in 1924, in Polaggia, a village in the province of Sondrio, Italy. Coming from a humble and simple family, he was educated, together with his five brothers, to love fGod and neighbor.

In 1940, when he was 16, his mother Ursula died. In 1949 he suffered bone tuberculosis, which forced him to spend a long time at the hospital of Santa Corona, in Liguria. Three years later, on March 8, 1952, he was ordained a Salesian priest.


In 1955, he took up work with the boys of the Salesian Center of Arese, a home for young people without families and with behavioral problems. It was a fundamental step in his life, because being among those youths tempered his character.

In 1960, he was appointed spiritual assistant of the oratories of Lombard . He would take the youth climbing the mountains of Val Formazza, helping them study and prepare for their future.

 In 1966, he met Fr Pietro Melesi ,who returning to Italy after ten years of his missionary work in Brazil, told him about the difficulties encountered in his work for the poor of Mato Grosso. Fr Ugo then launched his proposal: "Why do we not help them?"

It was July 8, 1967, when the first group of young missionaries left for Brazil. "It was like lighting a flame among these young people," Fr Ugo later wrote. Thus 'Operation Mato Grosso' was born, to provide assistance to the poorest families in the Brazilian region of Mato Grosso".

With the success of this cooperative movement supported by young Italians, Father Ugo decided to expand his range of action in the Peruvian Andes , arriving in 1976 , to the Ancashino people of Chacas as priest of the San Martín Papa Parish.  



Every week, on the heights of the Andes of Huaraz, he gathered over 20,000 teenagers and young people to talk to them about God, Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco. Don Ugo looked to St. Don Bosco as a father, a friend, a teacher of charity, and a guide to the great work for the benefit of the oratories. Father Ugo did not think of any work without prayer.

This holy Italian missionary founded centers, parishes, schools, workshops, hospitals, shelters, institutes, seminaries, and a monastery.  His work is widely recognized at the local, regional and international level where he managed to practically instill the Catholic faith but at the same time promote the development of the towns where the Mato Grosso Foundation has operated. He was in Chacas between 1976 and 2018. 






The flame of charity that burned on the Cordillera Blanca of the Andes has not been extinguished but will continue to burn in the thousands of young people the holy priest formed.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

THE 12TH DAY OF CHRISTMAS- EPIPHANY

Sadeo Watanabe- Japan



In an earlier Blog, we mentioned the end of the Christmas season for many Christians is December 26 (some even manage to stretch it to the day after New Year), while the 12 days of Christmas only begin on December 25. But in fact the season actually ends January 6. 

In the early Church, Christians, particularly those in the East, celebrated the advent of Christ on Jan. 6 by commemorating Nativity, Visitation of the Magi, Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana all in one feast of the Epiphany. By the fourth century, both Christmas and Epiphany had been set as separate feasts in some dioceses. At the Council of Tours in 567, the Church set both Christmas day and Epiphany as feast days on the Dec. 25 and Jan. 6, and named the twelve days between the feasts as the Christmas season.

Over time, the Western Church separated the remaining feasts into their own celebrations, leaving the celebration of the Epiphany to commemorate primarily the Visitation of the Magi to see the newborn Christ on Jan. 6.

It seems every country has some special tradition to celebrate this important feast, which ends the Christmas season (though many Americans are not aware of this!)   In Italy it is the day children receive their presents (hence the birth of Jesus on December 25 is highlighted). Children in many parts of Latin America, the PhilippinesPortugal, and Spain also receive their presents on “Three Kings Day.


Adoration of the Magi- S. Watanabe

In nearly every part of the world, Catholics celebrate Epiphany with a Kings Cake, which contains an object like a figurine or a lone nut. In some locations the winner of this prize must then hold a party at the close of the traditional Epiphany season on Feb. 2.  For our Community, it is a party at Mardi Gras.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

HOLINESS IN PERU


Our nearest neighbors are in Peru for three months with their two young daughters to immerse themselves in the language and people.  This reminds me that I have several Peruvians on the list being considered for canonization.  The first is  ANDREA AZIANI (SAMEK-LODOVICI) who, while not a native Peruvian, gave his life to the people there. He was born in Milan in 1953 and at a young age lost his mother. He and his brother were raised by their grandmother Cora and his grandfather, Professor Emanuele Sameck Ludovici. He had Jewish roots on the mother's side and was related to Emanuele Samek Ludovici, young philosopher of the Catholic University of Milan, who died prematurely in 1981 after a car accident..



In 1972, at the age of 19, he met Fr. Giussani  (Servant of God Luigi Giovanni Giussani was an Italian Catholic priest, theologian, educator, public intellectual, and founder of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation), which began his path in 1987 to Peru, laying the foundation of the Catholic University in which he taught until his death in 2008.

 He dedicated his whole life to Christ, consuming himself with love for Him, with a passion for others to find Jesus, always seeking to do God's will, whether in his work as a teacher or as a consecrated layman.  He was a model  of virtue and example for the Church to all who knew him especially children and his students.

He was totally consecrated to the Church and to Christ without leaving the world. His joy, his holiness and fullness of life, led many to question: "Can you live like this?" Proposing the beauty of Christ, in chastity, he was an example of total dedication to God as a layman sanctifying the world.

Education was the central nerve of his life and he educated with the passion with which he faced reality and his total commitment to communicate it. He taught philosophy, ethics, epistemology, anthropology, and social doctrine of the Church, transmitting a passion to know more deeply the Truth, knowing the situation of the today's educational crises of faith.


Despite his dedication to the teaching profession, there was always time to talk, to live with everyone, students, teachers, priests, the poor, the elderly, children and young people. Everyone knew him, from the president to the street vendors of the city. He could argue peacefully with the ministers and with the greatest intellectuals of the country and then quickly spend hours among the shacks helping the hungriest people and playing with the children in the dust of the roads, teaching them songs and prayers and bringing them food. 

He was a man of great prayer and could be  found absorbed before the tabernacle in adoration.

At his funeral attended by the highest representatives of the institutions but also a crowd of unknown people, united by the condolences, affection and gratitude for a person who had given them every kind of support. A concrete help, personally he took care of buying medicines as well as whitening the house, he did not deny anything to anyone in need. He attended heads of state as the most humble. Now he rests in a Peruvian park, his memory is more alive than ever and the countless testimonies of his 'fever of life' dedicated to others in his name,