“In the eyes of men, they were punished but by their hope, they already had immortality”; Wisdom 3:4. This is an excerpt from the first reading for the solemnity of Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr, patron saint of North Africa.
Indeed, by their hope, the martyrs already possess immortality because “the life of the righteous is in the hand of God, no torment has taken over them”. (Wisdom 3:1)
This year, the feast of St. Cyprian coincided in some way with the joyful announcement of the beatification of our 19 new martyrs of the Church in Algeria (Bishop Claverie and his 19 Companions) which will take place in Santa Cruz, in Oran on December 8, 2018.
Like St. Cyprian, their departure from this world was seen as a misfortune (for those who do not think and those who have no hope). Some died, shot to death, others slit their throats like sheep, others stabbed coming back from Mass, others in explosions… When they left us, we thought they were destroyed,… (Wisdom 3:3). Nevertheless, since the blood of the martyrs is a seed of Christians,” said Tertullian, dying out of love and fidelity for this people and this country they loved so much, they are still bearing fruit!
My greatest surprise as a witness to their works and abundant fruits was on 16 September 2018, the very day of the feast of St. Cyprian. We had planned to make registrations for school support courses in English and French as every year for all levels (from primary school to university). Every year the number increases because we have become “victims of our success”. We knew there would be people on registration day because we have limited space, but not as much! At 7:48 am, after the lauds, I opened the portal in order to prepare for the registration to start at 8:30 am. Surprise! Surprise! 83 people already in front of the entrance gate, not to mention those who had passed through the small door of the library! Overwhelmed by the number, everything had to be turned upside down; no breakfast, a late lunch and no nap all week long, beating the record even on the waiting list! Most of those who came were heard saying “the Fathers have reopened the language school”, others “there is no better place than the White Fathers of Tizi”….others still saying “I have not slept to get there first and there have I found other parents already because you are the best”… So, meditating on all this, I said to myself, if so many people trust us for everything we do, it is not only because of us, but because of our predecessors who were at the origin of this seed. Dying, they were still bearing fruit; they became martyrs of their good works. Truly, they sparkle like a fire running through the straw. (Wisdom 3:7)
Indeed, “if the grain of wheat that has fallen to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24), the gospel of the solemnity of St. Cyprian. After my meditation, I came to tell you… We, who were inspired by our martyred predecessors, through their works, may we pray that the Lord will help us to put more of our trust in him.
Vincent Kyererezi, M.Afr.