A century of history of the Church of Africa before you!
Mini-Lien of the French Sector – November 1st, 2020 – Editorial
“Of course, obviously, we still laugh for silly things like children… but not like before, not like before” sang France Gall to lyrics by Michel Berger, after the departure of someone very dear to him. Ah the emptiness felt after a death! And we must admit that when we visit the cellars of our deceased confreres on this 2nd November, we will become even more aware of how much we miss them.
The names are engraved in the granite but not as deeply as in our hearts or at least in our memories. Indeed, nothing will ever be “as it was before” again. And this sad year 2020 is going to indelibly mark our memories: only in France – and the year is not over – 20 confreres have left us, and that is huge.
Furthermore, too many of them left without any confrere to accompany them, carried to the morgue by ghosts in horror film outfits and then just as directly to the cemetery without passing through the “compulsory box” of a chapel or a church. Inhuman! No, they did not devote so many years in Africa to the service of the Gospel, carried by an improbable renunciation peculiar to the White Fathers to end up like that! They did not deserve that! And while the undertakers were doing their work, we “living” people were alone in our rooms, our eyes dry but our hearts were upset, whispering endlessly as if to stimulate our hope: “O death, where is your victory? »
Fortunately, faith and reason quickly took over and made us stronger; the feast of All Saints’ Day is there to remind us: “Yes, we know” our confreres are alive and forever at the height of their active missionary and priestly life. And their departure, however painful it may have been, was only their final trial, the same one that Christ lived before his resurrection. Yes, they are alive and we believe in them deeply.
So on this 2nd November, how can we not share the pride we are entitled to feel when we see all that God has achieved through them in Africa or elsewhere? It is by no means in vain that He has chosen His workers from an incredible diversity and richness; each one of them has worked in his own way in the Lord’s vineyard, bringing to the immense stained glass window of the Mission this small personal brushstroke that gives it all its brightness: all the human and spiritual fields have been marvellously ploughed for 150 years. And it is indeed this diversity that has made the Church of Africa the pearl it is today.
But the feast of All Saints’ Day is also the feast of forgiveness, ….. or of forgetting, according to our understanding. The departure of our confreres has indeed erased in our memories all the negative things that could have been attributed to them during their lifetime. And above all, with hindsight, were not what we thought to be shortcomings finally useful, even necessary for the construction of the Church in Africa? It is amazing how much progress she was able to make thanks to all the imperfections of her workers!
It is indeed these small but numerous crosses that have shaped it, and it is indeed many small crosses that still shape this masterpiece in the making. It is the shadows that have always brought out the splendour of light and colour! It is then that we are reminded of St. Paul’s comforting confession: “When I am weak, then I am strong!” “All is grace! “, wrote Bernanos.
At Bry Cemetery, as in other cemeteries, 10 ‘Missionaries of Africa’ vaults are lined up with dozens of names carved in stone in the ‘Book of Life’. To a young couple who had come to pay their respects at their uncle’s grave, I proudly said: “You have before you more than a century of the history of the Church in Africa.
Let us give thanks to God for our deceased confreres! May they rest in peace!
Father Clément Forestier, M.Afr.
Listen to these beautiful words of Michel Berger, sung by France Gall, in memory of our deceased confreres since November 2, 2019.