Below is the famous preface that Cardinal Lavigerie wrote in March 1884 for the publication of a collection of his pastoral writings. Beyond the style dated by the time and some historical reflections that we know today were obsolete, this text retains an apostolic inspiration and breath that still touches us today. And we will be able to recognize some phrases that remain famous in the living memory of the Society of Missionaries of Africa.
“It is especially for you, my beloved sons, that I publish these two volumes. I dedicate them to you. The writings that compose them deal with the barbaric missions for which you are in charge with me, and for which we have abandoned everything here below, even the soil of our homeland. They will, therefore, remind you of my thoughts, my advice, my struggles of a quarter of a century. Basically, in seemingly diverse forms, a single feeling inspires them. This is the one Our Lord asked of Peter to make him the head of his Apostles; the one that Saint Augustine, the doctor of our Africa and of the whole Church, proclaims the unique law of Christians; the one that I myself have taken as my motto: love, love of God and love of so many poor abandoned souls. This love sustained me in the midst of the difficulties and works that wore out my life before the hour. It will also give you the strength, the heroic abnegation, the perseverance necessary to slowly remove from death the peoples to whom you are sent.
Love them therefore as a mother loves her sons, in proportion to their misery and their weakness. Love Africa, which is far from us, for the bleeding wounds of its slavery, for the cries of pain, which have risen from its depths for so many centuries; Africa, which is closer and which was once Christian, for its past misfortunes, and for its great people and saints. Love, whatever you have suffered from it, whatever you may still suffer from it, the two races which are present there and which must, in the purposes of Providence, merge into one people. Love the one who arrives, with the activity, the energy and sometimes the impatience of the child who, from the cradle, already announces, by the very ardour of his anger, the vigour of his mature age. Love the old race we found there, made up of ten different races, where Christian blood has left its mark; Love it with its memories, its legends, its traditions of respect and faith, the stoic resignation that immobilizes it in its tomb. Love them both to teach them one day, finally, ” that which is to give them peace ” (cf. Luke XIX 42). This is the only feeling you will find, in various forms, I repeat, in each of these pages.
The patriarchs loved even the stones of Zion, the symbol for them of so many hopes. Following their example, I loved everything in our Africa, its past, its future, its mountains, its pure sky, its sun, the broad lines of its deserts, the waves of azure which bathe it. But to express these thoughts, I did not seek the help of art. I give to the public these writings as they came out of my pen, under the empire of impressions, needs, perils of each day. May these accents of my heart, of my faith, conquer new sympathies and help for your apostolate. May my voice continue to be heard by you! She will soon be silent in this world, but from the bottom of the grave, she will give you the same speech she has given you for so many years..: Voice crying in the desert: make the Lord’s way straight! »
Carthage, 27th March 1884,
anniversary of my transfer to the Archbishopric of Algiers.
Cardinal Charles Lavigerie
From Mini-lien nr. 476 of 1st September 2018 :
8ème texte de réflexion pris dans les documents de nos Sociétés.