A meditation with the image of Our Lady of Africa

Some elements of Marian missionary spirituality from a meditation with the image of Our Lady of Africa

This is a personal meditation with the image of Our Lady of Africa. I have learned to meditate with images (icons) with Eastern Christians in Egypt, Slovenia and with a Serbian Orthodox friend. I invite everyone to look at the image and to be touched by the details. One can make a whole spiritual retreat with the image of Our Lady of Africa. I am only giving you a summary of my meditation because of the limitations of the article.

Presence in the world

A statue of Our Lady of Africa stands above the basilica. This is the first mission of God: to be present to people through his incarnation. It is an act of love. Mission is above all a loving presence. This image of Our Lady of Africa expresses a silent presence.

A shining light

The image shines with a sunlight-like color. The crown and the skin of Mary have the same color. It is a color that seems to be a mixture of all colors. It is humanity of all races, languages, peoples, nations united and carried by Mary. It is humanity illuminated by the divine presence.

The Crown

The crown is a symbol of sovereignty. Mary is queen because her son is king. The tip of the crown is the cross, symbol of Christ. The cross supplants a globe. Christ is the King of the universe. Therefore, his mother, Mary, is also Queen of the Universe. The closed crown of Mary (a circle with arches attached to it that meet at the top) with a globe is an imperial symbol: Mary’s sovereignty is complete. Seven half-arches with fleur-de-lis can be seen: this is the purity of the Virgin Mary. It is the answer of the one who is conceived without sin (Immaculate Conception) to the 7 capital sins, it is victory over sin.

The veil

Mary’s veil appears as rays coming out of the crown and pouring over the mantle. It is a very thin veil that does not hide the hair. The veil of Our Lady of Africa is the divine graces. These graces come from her Son and are poured over Mary’s whole body. She is full of grace. The thinness of the veil shows an intimacy with her Son. Our Lady of Africa is not concerned with hiding her femininity with a veil. Rather, the veil becomes a symbol of union with God.

The hair

Hair is a sign of femininity, and of beauty. The veil does not hide the hair. Mary’s hair reminds us that she is a woman, feminine. I think of the holy women of the Gospel who expressed much love for Jesus. I also think of the women whose femininity is abused and exploited. We pray for them and commit ourselves to act against this abuse.

Looking down

Mary looks down on humanity.  She looks with love at those who pass by. She intercedes so that they may always be blessed. This is what it means to be a missionary. Her eyes are slightly closed. She is an inner woman. It is from within, from intimacy with God, that she receives her life and her mission. Her head tilted to the right is also reminiscent of her son on the cross, the supreme sacrifice of love and redemption of humanity. She was present. Her gaze exudes humility, simplicity and interiority.

The mantle

Mary’s mantle is abundant. Mary is full of grace and grace overflows. The mantle is blue with white stripes and gold motifs. The blue in the iconography symbolises wisdom and refers to incarnateWisdom, the Word, the Son of God. It is the presence of the Son in her, it is life in abundance. This overflowing life is experienced at the wedding in Cana. Blue is also heaven, holiness. From this blue emerges depth and calm. White is the colour of divinity, the divine presence. The scattered golden motifs represent the Holy Spirit blowing.  The mantle is in the form of a chasuble, a sign of the priestly function of sanctifying.  Mary gives the impression of celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice. The white band in the middle of the robe resembles a stole, the symbol par excellence of the priesthood. Mary sanctifies the people as “priest and intercessor.” The mantle covers Mary’s body. This is evocative of the Assumption. Mary’s body has not known corruption. It is raised to heaven.

The arms

The open arms are the presence that welcomes everyone without distinction, without discrimination. They are arms that invite us to enter into intimacy with Jesus through Mary who wants to embrace us like a mother.  The open and lowered arms are a presence without weapons, without violence, without protection, a vulnerable presence that offers only what it holds dearest: Jesus Christ. Her open hands show humility, purity, simplicity in a world that clings to power and wealth. She has the attitude of the gentle, the non-violent, the one who is incapable of doing harm. It is also the arms that offer. Mary’s fingers are separated.  She holds nothing back. She keeps nothing. She gives everything.

Moussa Serge Traore

Stations of creation

Stations of creation

Way of the cross, organised by “Via Aurelia Pilgrims”

Since the Season of Creation (2021), several neighbouring religious communities of the Via Aurelia have been walking together in the spirit of the synod.

Our group “Pilgrims of the Via Aurelia”, composed of the Marist Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Missionaries of Africa, organized a Way of the Cross under the theme of Laudato Si.

On Friday, April 8, about a hundred people from the congregations that live in the neighbourhood, or who joined from other parts of Rome, participated in the prayer of the 7 Stations of Creation. Four vessels signifying the 4 elements: Wind, Fire, Water, Earth accompanied us on our way to the cross.

The photos give you a glimpse of our lived experience. You can also download the prayer of the stations of creation.

We wish you a good journey towards Easter!

JPIC-ED Prayer Book

Following the suggestion of several confreres, we have prepared a new JPIC-RD prayer booklet, entitled “Prayer for our Common Home”.

For the feast of Our Lady of Africa, you will find the prayer N°13, and for May 8, memory of the blessed martyrs of Algeria, the prayer N°12.

Andreas G
Coordinator JPIC ED

Practical advise for the production of this A6 booklet:

    1. Download the PDF document
    2. Print the 4 pages recto-verso (turn on the long edge)
    3. Cut the pages in half to make 4 A5 pages
    4. Fold the A5 pages in two and compose the booklet according to pagination 1 to 16
    5. Staple on the fold.

Et voilà

Homily of Bp. Claude Rault on 8th May

Homily of Bp. Claude Rault on 8th May

Happy Feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Algeria. The fortunate ones in rue Friant in Paris were treated to a homily by our confrere, Bishop Claude Rault, who knew all the martyrs personally. Here is his homily.

It so happens that, through the mystery of history, I have come to know almost all the members of the Church of Algeria whose memory we celebrate today. Some I have known more, others less.

On several occasions I was able to work with Bishop Pierre in the Episcopal Conference, and he came several times to the Diocese of the Sahara when I was Vicar General. He was a passionate and exciting man. His regular letters during the “black decade” soon made him a potential target for armed Islamists and security forces. He knew the risks he was taking.

I was also quite close to Christian Chessel, Jean Chevillard, Alain Dieulangard and a little less Charlie Deckers.

Well known also in Ribât, the Link of Peace, Brother Henri Vergès (one of the first victims), less Sister Paule Hélène who worked with him.

Sr Odette came regularly to the same spiritual sharing group. I would sometimes go to celebrate the Eucharist at their little fraternity in a working class setting.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, I had been attending the monastery of Tibhirine and had developed a rather strong bond with Bro Christian, the future Prior. Brother Luc, a colourful doctor, had treated me on several occasions.

Srs. Angèle-Marie and Bibiane were almost unknown to me.

Once or twice I had met Sr. Esther who was treating a friend of mine in a hospital in Algiers where she worked. And a little did I know her sister from the Caridad community.

I am not going to retrace their journey, but I will rather tell you how I was able to witness their journey towards beatification.

From the beginning, when Archbishop Henri Teissier had the investigations for a possible beatification made, I was among several “resistants” to this procedure. I was then provincial of the Maghreb. At the time when our companions from Tizi were murdered at the end of December 94, some other confreres White Fathers, especially in Central Africa, had paid with their lives for their attachment to Christ and to the country in which they had chosen to stay. In fact they had suffered the same fate. So why could our Brothers in Tizi Ouzou have been distinguished from them?

Besides… I had known them well enough to realise that they were not heroes! Their community life was not a great river of peace. And then, in itself, the personality of each one was not really extraordinary in terms of character and behaviour. Pierre Claverie, brilliant as he was, had his temper tantrums, Brother Christian de Chergé his contractions, our confreres in Tizi Ouzou their personal and community problems… like you and me! And sometimes the monks even more… ! There, I have played the devil’s advocate!

As the investigation progressed, we could see that, deep down, it was not their “exemplarity” that was at stake but the meaning of a Church committed in the midst of a People.

This was reflected in the gift of their lives in connection with Muslim men and women who had given the gift of theirs out of fidelity to God and fidelity to their people. The members of the Church of Algeria had given theirs in the line of the same fidelity.

Once the survey was completed, the risk was that each Congregation would present its “candidates” for Beatification in separate ranks. The White Fathers were reluctant to do so. And little by little the vision of a united Church emerged, recognising itself in these given lives and desiring to see them “beatified” not within this or that religious family but as part of the Church, the Body of Christ, which had decided to remain within this suffering people, out of solidarity with them.

“It is not because my wife has lost her mind that I am going to leave her! “replied a Little Brother of Jesus to a journalist.

And little by little the “cause” was advancing. The signing of the Beatification by the Pope was imminent. Where could it take place? We could not see how it could be anywhere else but Algeria! So we bishops met in the office of the Minister of Religious Affairs.

We wanted to involve the many victims of this civil war, starting with the 113 Imams who gave their lives in the name of their faith in God who refuses violence. And it was possible to do so, they were recognized as the spiritual heritage of the humanity of this people.

These reflections have taught me a lot about holiness.

Those we celebrate are blessed neither because of their heroism nor because of their perfection. Heroism is of the human order, and perfection belongs to God alone.

Holiness is of another order, it is a gift of the Holy God. It is a gift that God gives to all of us, and it is up to us whether we accept it or not. It takes place within our hearts.

Those who are declared holy or blessed are declared as a foretaste of what we can be… with God’s grace.

To be officially declared “blessed” or “holy” by the Church is an appreciation that comes from her. We know that on this point she can be mistaken…

These men and women have finished their race. They were like us human beings. In the name of Love they risked to go to the end of this Love.

It is within our reach, as it is within the reach of anyone.

The Love of the Father accompanied them to the end of their journey, He was faithful to them. Dressed in white robes, they mysteriously let themselves be attracted by this Love of God that has no limits.

They gave their lives for those they loved as did many other anonymous people, known only to God.

Basically, the essential thing is to let oneself be attracted by this Love. And this is within the reach of all of us. To be inscribed on the list of the Blessed belongs to men. To be inscribed in the Book of Life belongs only to God. But we must wish it to each other.

+Claude Rault. M.Afr.

NAD Lenten Meditation 6