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Celebrating May as Catholics – Five things to Consider by Lambert Mbom.

We are still in the highs of Easter as we enter the third week of Easter. It is the Resurrection: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! One of the best messages I heard on Easter is Pope Francis’ beautiful Easter vigil homily in which he invited us Catholics to: “Return to Galilee.” On the Resurrection morning, the first witnesses heard this from the angel and then from the risen Christ. Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. The Holy Father explains the meaning of the invitational challenge to return to Galilee. First it means a re-reading of the central events of the life of Jesus in the light of this new beginning, the supreme act of love.

It is also an invitation for each of us to remember and celebrate our baptism. As Pope Francis says: “For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. ‘To go to Galilee’ means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.”

During this Easter, let us seek to rediscover the meaning of our Baptism. We must ask ourselves the question: “Where is our Galilee?” For those of us who were baptized as infants, Easter presents us with the unique opportunity to “claim” our baptism. We are encouraged to find out when we were baptized and to “re-live” that moment every Easter. The blessing with holy water and the paschal candle that burns throughout Easter are eloquent reminders of our Baptism. Embark on the spiritual journey to the place where we first encountered Christ.

Perhaps, throughout this month let us take the time to meditate on what Easter means to us as a community and as individuals. What does the Resurrection mean to me? What does it mean to say we are an Easter people? It is important to avoid the danger of complacency – whereby Easter becomes a mere cyclical return of the seasons over which we have no control. As an Easter people we are invited to show the power of life over death, exude joy and above all, live in and bring hope. Easter reminds us of those very famous words, the sadness of Good Friday makes way to the joy of Easter. Such is the rhythm of Christian life. The cross is not the last word.

Easter is already warming up to be very exciting with the wonderful gift of two new saints. They are not just the ordinary regulars but two great contemporary giants of our faith: St John XXIII, who convened the famous Second Vatican Council that revolutionized the Church and St John Paul II. For young adults like some of us, the memories of St. John Paul II are still very fresh in our minds and hearts. These are our contemporaries who walked this “vale of tears” and appreciate better our daily struggles. For over two and half decades, the universal Church prayed daily at every mass for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II and during prayers of the faithful. We prayed for the Pope and today we are invited to pray with and through the Pope now a saint.

 May we be inspired by these words of the Preface the priest uses during mass for saints – holy men and women: “You renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of your unchanging love. They inspire us by their heroic lives and help us by their constant prayers to be the living sign of your saving power.” There could be no better way of living the joy of this Easter other than enjoying it with these two new saints. In order to be inspired by their heroic lives we must seek to get to know them better. How about buying a biography on each of the recently canonized Popes and reading it. One of the greatest tragedies of Catholicism is the abundance of literature we posses and yet many remain ignorant of the faith. During this month, let us resolve to learn something from their lives. Above all, let us seek their intercession for our daily needs. Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

A critical ingredient in St. Pope John Paul II’s pontificate undoubtedly is his dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary. May is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as a Marian month. This is in honor of the Blessed Mother’s apparition at Fatima, May 13, 1917. During this month, we shall also celebrate Mother’s day on May 11th. We are invited to treasure not just the genius of the woman but also the amazing gift of motherhood. Hence, we must reflect on what it means to be not just a woman but above all what it means to be a mother? In fact, the challenge is to come to terms with not only what it means to be a Catholic woman and one who belongs to an apostolate but also a Catholic mother? How Catholic are we?

In a very special way, this month must be dedicated to the Catholic women apostolate of our Cameroon Catholic community in DC metro area who are in crises. The bickering, the rancor, bitterness and division fueled by a vaulted ambition to be in control no matter the cost by a coterie of know-it-all, high-class and well connected women expressed in pidgin as “over-sabis” are clearly not Marian virtues. It may sound outrageous but truth be told, it is not enough to pray the rosary! If these are the fruits of their bimonthly meetings praying the rosary, then we must reexamine our prayers.

Do we just recite the rosary or do we pray the rosary? May we grow in our devotion to Mary especially throughout the course of this month of May. During this month, let us seek to mirror the virtues of Mary, with and through whom we pray. Like St Pope John Paul II taught us in that beautiful encyclical on the rosary:With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. This month let us return to Mary’s school and sit at her feet to contemplate with her the face of the Risen Christ.

During this month when we get to celebrate mother’s day, it is also incumbent upon each of us to celebrate the motherhood of the Church. It is time for us to reexamine what does it mean to belong to the Catholic Church? Is the Church just a structure where we go to worship? Is it the dominant all male hierarchy which hardly understands women and above all contemporary issues? If Baptism makes us members of the Church – God’s family and the Church is mother, let us draw out the meaning of this for our spiritual edification. What is my relation to holy mother, the Church?

By some strange twist and divine providence, the Church launched the month of the rosary by inviting us to celebrate May 1st as feast of St Joseph, the worker. The Church celebrates the value of human labor. Work is good, it is noble and it is divine. In one of his homilies on one of these celebrations of May 1st, St Pope John Paul II drew out this significance of work when he said:

If the Son of God was willing to learn a human work from a man, this indicates that there is in work a specific moral value with a precise meaning for man and for his self-fulfillment. In the Encyclical Laborem Exercens, I mentioned precisely that “through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more a human being” (n. 9) How can we not recognize then the great dignity of work, whatever kind it may be in its concrete expression? How can we not see the fundamental role that it fulfills in the life of the individual, of the family, of society?

This month many people are graduating from school and will be in the job market. May they ask the powerful intercession of St Joseph, the worker to afford them good jobs. May all those searching for jobs implore the intercession of St Joseph. And for all those who work, there is an invitation to rediscover the true meaning of work. There is the temptation to view work only in its economic value and forget its intrinsic spiritual value. To work is to pray and we are saved because we work or better still we are saved in and through our work.

In sum, the five things Catholics can do during May include the following:

-       Celebrate Easter by recalling and reliving our Baptism

-       Pray the Rosary

-       Avail of the intercession of Sts. Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

-       Celebrate our mothers and the motherhood of the Church

-       Celebrate St Joseph the worker and express the value of work.

 

ABCs of the Solemnity of the Assumption by Lambert Mbom.

On August 15 every year, the universal Catholic Church gathers in prayer to celebrate the fact that “The most Blessed Virgin Mary when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven where she already shares in the glory of her son’s resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His body.” This is a scandal to many and a stumbling block to many non-Catholic Christians.

There could be no better place to seek an understanding of this doctrine than reverting to the papal document – Munificentissimus Deus(MD) issued by Pope Paul XII in 1950 defining the dogma of the Assumption.

The title of this document, (which following the tradition of papal document is always the first couple of words of the document) literally translated as “The Most bountiful God” explains the heart of this doctrine: God in His bountiful Goodness brings Mary, the mother of God, body and soul into heaven.

An important distinction worth making here is between the Ascension of Christ into heaven and the Assumption of Mary into heaven. In the creed we profess that Christ ascended into Heaven but with Mary we talk of the Assumption. The ascension is in basic English in the “active voice” while the assumption is “passive.” While Christ ascends into heaven, Mary is assumed into heaven. Without the Ascension of Christ, there is no Assumption. It would seem then that to question the assumption is to question the ascension.

In a certain sense, the Assumption is essentially liturgical. Like we read on the US Bishops’ website,“The Liturgy is the ‘the participation of the people of God’ in the work of God.’ It is ‘the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus in which God is worshipped and adored and people are made holy.’ God begins the work of sanctifying people in time and space and brings that work to completion.

In essence, the Solemnity of the Assumption is God’s work. It is first and foremost God’s work. Mary herself proclaims in the Magnificat: I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word. The Assumption then is a continuation of the fulfillment of the Fiat.

Pope Pius XII makes it abundantly clear that the Assumption is a privilege. His lavish usage of this term throughout the entire document is an important indicator of the contours of the teaching. The almost extravagant use of the term, “privilege” underlines the fact that it is not the Pope who sends Mary to heaven or Mary who brings herself to heaven. In this sense, the Assumption is not an invention but a discovery.

On what basis should we believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary?

Anyone scouring the bible for a direct reference to the Assumption will not find one. Does that ipso facto discredit the assumption? That would be an epic instantiation of the literalist reading of the bible. If one with an open mind scans through Scriptures, the doctrine of the Assumption will no longer be a strange doctrine.

The words of the angel Gabriel to Mary at the annunciation are quite significant: Hail, Full of grace… Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. (Lk.1:28). One cannot fail to draw the inner connection between Mary’s blessedness and the blessedness of the fruit of her womb: Jesus. Notice here the angel uses the same term for both Jesus and Mary. I am not in any way insinuating that both are equal for Christ is God and Mary, human; yet we find in this text ingredients for the doctrine of the assumption.

In Jn. 12:32 Christ declares: And I when am lifted from the earth will draw all men to myself and further on in Jn. 14:3. He specifies: “And I will go and prepare a place for you and I will come back and take you with me so that where I am, there you too may be found.” Against this background, isn’t it within the realm of the rational to believe that Christ has begun fulfilling this by bringing Mary into heaven, body and soul?

Beyond this even, let us stay at the human plane. There is an abundance of evidence that within families most sons are more attached to their mothers while daughters are to their fathers. Not in any sense of nepotism, one would expect Christ to accord his mother a place in his Kingdom not just because Mary is his mother but beyond this because she is his first disciple.  Christ brings Mary to heaven not just because she is his mother but above all because she is his first disciple. And like Christ himself specifies that whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother. (Mtt.12:50)

In the document, we find Pope Pius XII adducing St Francis de Sales who asserts that “it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has himself observed in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are ordered to honor their parents.” He then adds, “What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?” (MD 35)

St Alphonsus of Ligouri also writes that “ Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death since it would have redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed flesh reduced to death.”

As the pope referencing the Scholastics notes, “Out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives, which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy mother. (MD 25)

 

The dogma of the Assumption builds on four doctrines of the Catholic Church namely the doctrine of Original sin, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the divine motherhood of Mary and lastly, the Resurrection.

The papal document provides three “benefits” (for want of a better term) of celebrating the solemnity of the Assumption:

-       The celebration of the Assumption is an advantage to the human society. In one of the prefaces the priest prays: Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness yet our desire itself to thank you is itself your gift.” The solemnity of the assumption adds nothing to God and to Mary. It is for us. As the text specifies, “it is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother.”

-       By meditating on the example of Mary, the hope is that Christians can become more and more convinced of the value of human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. By the Assumption we are reminded that this life is not the end; there is a beyond, which must always be in the horizon.

-       It is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.

To one and all then, Happy Big Day Maria!!!

Intercommunion: A Few Clarifications by Lambert Mbom.

May I preface my remarks by observing that Holy Communion also known as the Holy Eucharist, altar sacrament (excuse the pidgin) is one of those hot potato issues along side Mary, Scriptures, the priesthood among others.
It is in the spirit of the Year of the Faith (October 2012 – November 2013) that I dare an explanation on this mystery of our faith. Through this exchange, intellectual or more precisely digital, I hope to be enriched and above all in the process help clarify any doubts.
By the way, it is quite interesting that the architect of this debate,* a Protestant of Presbyterian extraction with “langa throat” for things Catholic, reverts to a Catholic document to defend his thesis: Some Christians can receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church under some very special circumstances at some special events. It is worth noting that the proponent does not evoke the cardinal principle of Protestantism “Sola Scriptura – Scriptures Only.”
Before I go into the kernel of the argument, I would like to propose that the relevant biblical text worth pondering on the issue under consideration is 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Except otherwise stated all biblical quotes are from the Good News Translation.
v. 28: So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink the cup.
v. 29: For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink.
v. 30: That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.
 
The text is quite clear on why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. It is basically a question of meaning. For Catholics, during consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For others, at least for Presbyterians, it is just a symbol or may be just symbolic. This is no small difference. It is an essential difference.
Let us leave aside the question of the reasonableness of this teaching until someone brings it up for discussion. It suffices to mention here though that Christ said: “This is my body…This is my blood” and not this is a symbol of my body. We do not share the same meaning of the Eucharist. Hence in receiving Holy Communion, either the recipient is making a bold affirmation of Catholic doctrine, in which case why does the individual not follow the proper channel and officially become Catholic? Else, it is downright bad will and outright disrespect. Out of impunity, it would seem with the recipient insinuating: what can you guys do? In which case this becomes a scandal and a sacrilege.
Secondly, the nomenclature used to describe this reality is carefully chosen. It is communion, a communio, a common union. As a “comm-unity” we share a common faith. It is as a community that we profess the common faith in the Body and Blood of Christ. It helps build and foster the unity. Communion is both a precondition for Holy Communion and the source of communion. To receive communion you must be in communion with the Church and this is also the source of the communion.  Kenneth is not in communion and so why receive Holy Communion.
It behooves me at this point to mention that unity is not uniformity. There is unity in diversity and so to hide behind Christ’s prayer for unity: May they all be one – is at best deceptive and disingenuous.
But Kenneth Ndeh would readily claim that he agrees with these and would add that Canon Law makes provision for special circumstances where intercommunion is possible.  These extenuating circumstances are listed in the instruction by USCCB. For the purpose of this discussion, permit me quote the last part of the instruction:
This is why the USCCB guidelines, which are published in the back of every missalette, exclude weddings, funerals and other such occasions as appropriate for intercommunion. The occasions would be individual, normally determined by a pastor after consultation with the bishop, or, in accordance with norms drawn up on the basis of this canon (paragraph 5).
 
First of all this is circumscribed to the United States of America. I have not done any research to ascertain what the practice is in other parts of the world. At least, I know in Cameroon this is not the case.
What is more the instruction talks of special events like weddings and funerals. In addition to many other conditions to be fulfilled, it clearly specifies that it involves a process.
Let me use an example close to home: Jude Ambe’s wife is a Presbyterian but on their wedding day she received communion under both species in the Catholic Church. Suffices it to mention here that it was a mixed marriage for which dispensation was required and duly granted from the Bishop at the request of the pastor of Resurrection parish. As you would note, the above policy is specific and notes that the occasions would be INDIVIDUAL (emphasis mine).  Mr. Ambe’s wife cannot continue to receive communion at every wedding because she was given dispensation. It was a onetime thing for a specific event. Other Presbyterians cannot now claim that at every wedding or funeral they would receive communion.

Mr. Ndeh, clearly under some very extreme circumstances an individual at a particular event can receive Holy Communion. To the best of my knowledge you have not fulfilled any of those conditions and you continue to make a mockery of our Catholic Faith. Thank God that it is among Catholics. Why not go try the Muslims?

* This article was originally published on the listserv of Sacred Heart College Ex Students (SHESA – DC)

Jonathan Fru lambasts Catholic Christians: A Rejoinder. By Lambert Mbom

Dear Jonathan Fru,
Generalities:
May I crave your indulgence ab initio to take the liberty and respond to your 7.14 pm email of August 1st which you addressed to Sam Esale via the Cameroonian egroup: Camnetwork. I do so not with any pretense at theological expertise even though I am credentialed but because silence in the face of such outlandish denigrations of my faith will be nothing short of a betrayal surpassing even that of Judas. I am not holding brief for the Catholic Church but rather taking the liberty along lines of the Petrine challenge to give an account of my faith especially in the face of such stupendous misrepresentation.
I do not intend this to be any theological theatrics but cast my intervention within the Augustinian paradigm of a “faith seeking understanding.”
Excuse me if I do not address you as “Rev” for I do not know whether as a defrocked pastor you are “Rev emeritus…” and just as you do not speak for the Protestant church I do not speak for the Catholic Church.
It behooves me to state clearly that your insalubrious invective against the Catholic Church is based on a figment of your imagination. It is your version of Catholic doctrine. It is the sound and rational principle of critical analysis that one knows what he is criticizing. In this particular instance as in many others, criticisms of Catholic doctrine are based on a shallow understanding of Catholic doctrine. It is simply bad will and downright intellectual dishonesty. It is disingenuous, Mr. Awasom, for you to churn out such diatribe without a single quote from any official Catholic Church documents to substantiate your claim. Not at all surprised for a great chunk of the material you dole out on this subject is copied verbatim without any acknowledgement from the internet.
For the sake of full disclosure, permit me say here that I am a Roman Catholic who made an abortive bid to the Catholic priesthood. I have italicized the relevant sections of your mail and my response follows.
“This is what the bible teaches and since Roman Catholics don’t read the Bible as much as Protestants, they cannot understand because of lack of knowledge in biblical teachings.”
In logic, this is called the fallacy of hasty generalization. For an “intellectual” of your stature or as you would want us to believe you are, such generalities cast a doubt on your credentials.
What your highlighted argument above boils down to is the fact that when we put every Protestant and every Catholic to a test of the bible, all Protestants will outclass all Catholics. Wonders shall never end. I can hedge my bets that this is clearly not what you meant to say but I only have your writing for evidence and so will hinge on it.
The ability to quote randomly from books of the bible is not a demonstration of biblical knowledge.
What is even comical is the fact that you preface your remarks with a display of your academic profile (and by the way, congratulations on your master’s degree) but go on to prove the exact opposite of this. You do not care to substantiate your remarks with any shred of evidence neither scientifically nor anecdotally even.
Catholics have mass daily and at each mass there are at least three readings all taken from the bible. In fact, if a Catholic were to attend mass regularly and pay attention, s/he would be well versed with the bible even if s/he may not be able to shout out verses like kids in kindergarten singing out memory verses. The reality is that many do not attend mass regularly.
Nobody has put a gun on the heads of Catholics precluding them from reading the bible. One must also agree that one thing which we have learnt from the evangelical world is constant reading of the bible. In the Catholic world there are many excellent biblical publications promoting bible studies. Catholics do not need to shout biblical verses from rooftops before people know they know the bible.
I do not want to bore you with an avalanche of literature on the Catholic Church and the bible but since you an internet researcher, kindly read this article: Are Catholics into the Bible? Accessible on: http://www.catholicbridge.com/catholic/bible_catholics.php.
That may be strange to the dogmatic Roman Catholic Church because in order to be a Saint according to the Roman Catholic Church, one must obey and worship the Pope, perform one miracle and carry out some charity.
 
Jonathan, I am not sure you are quoting the doctrine of the Catholic Church correctly. Please apprise me of where Catholic doctrine requires that for one to be canonized he/she has to obey and worship the Pope. And by the way, what do you mean by “worship the Pope?” This facile and almost infantile description does not come close to the process of canonization at least as I know it. I am ready with eraser to blot this out from my writing once you can show me the text. If anything, read up Catholic doctrine and ask. There are many Catholics who would share with you what the doctrine is even if they knew you were going to shred it. Shred the right thing, though! What you describe is a caricature of the process and a creation of your mind.
I am a little surprised at your inability to draw the distinction between honoring and worshipping. When the soldier swears allegiance to the commander in chief, is he worshipping the commander in chief or is he honoring and respecting him?
I am speaking as an experienced and well groomed(sic) Protestant Christian with my deep and profound knowledge in the authority of the word of God, which is foreign to the Pope and Roman Catholic Church.
Culpable ignorance is inexcusable. Where do you come from with such exotic claim that the authority of the word of God is foreign to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church? You seem to have a fascination for the papacy and if you care, I could arrange for you to visit the Vatican. I am pretty much certain that Pope Francis would love to have a chat with you on your claims but given your disposition it will be an exercise in futility.
For one who claims to be well groomed in the authority of the word of God, one is scandalized by your audacious demonstration of this “holier-than-thou” syndrome. I am pretty much certain, if you were still a Protestant pastor, the Church would have called you to order.
Just get used too the fact that the ways of the Catholic Church are not the ways of the Protestant Church. We may have and share common grounds but on doctrinal and biblical teachings, the two are diametrically opposed to each other.
My dear brother, why do state the obvious: there are differences between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. I take umbrage at your claim that the doctrinal and biblical teachings of the two are diametrically opposed. First of all, the Protestant Church is not a uniform bloc. There are many differences even within that bloc. To use the term “Protestant,” even if loosely is disingenuous.
Your claim that the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church for example are “diametrically opposed” is a maniacal exaggeration. What unites Catholics and Presbyterians is far more compelling than what separates or divides us.
Roman Catholic Christians are too shallow and lacking because they don’t know the bible.
All I can say, Jonathan is, Father, forgive him he does not know what he is saying. Such a categorical statement insulting in essence could only be the fruit of myopia, feeble mindedness and bigotry. Tell us what barometer you used to measure this and the methodology you availed of to warrant such an outlandish evaluation. My only consolation is in the fact that you surely are referring to a different group, surely not the Roman Catholic Church I belong to.
On the substance of your discussion which is the fact that sainthood is not the exclusive preserve of a few whom the Vatican selectively designates, may it please you to know that this is exactly the position of the Catholic Church. First of all, you must seek to understand the theology of sainthood. The Church teaches that by virtue of our baptism, all of us are called to holiness. We are all saints en route to Sainthood. On the 1st of November every year, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. This is for all those unnamed Saints and many there are. Africa for example has an impressive number of saints who are yet to be canonized.
“Caculus non facit monarchum – the habit does not make the monk.”
Post Script: If you are interested in Roman Catholicism even if just for your criticism, I am always available to share my faith with you. We can disagree without being disagreeable. If I do not know the answer, I will point you to resources and persons that will educate you on the rudiments of the Catholic faith.

Blessed is he – Bishop-elect Andrew Nkea – who comes in the name of the Lord. Part II by Lambert Mbom.

Msgr Andrew Nkea

Msgr Andrew Nkea

It is one week to the date since the Church in the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda erupted in song and dance at the news of the appointment of one her priests to the office of Bishop for the Benjamin of the province – diocese of Mamfe. One could write an encyclopedia about the Bishop-elect but would prefer to mention three gifts the new Bishop brings to his ministry in Mamfe namely eloquent preaching, elegant administration and erudite playwright.

In his priestly ministry, bishop-elect Andrew Nkea distinguished himself as an eloquent preacher. One could rightly refer to him as the John Chrysostom of our age – the man with the golden tongue not to be confused with one with the sweet or glib tongue known for sugar-coating meant to impress or cajole.  Rather, simply put, Bishop-elect Nkea is a gifted preacher. Even though we may take it for granted that good preaching is a gift, it is important to note that it is a cultivated gift. A good sermon is the fruit of prayer and reading. He was just so good that when he was chancellor of the diocese, Christians started rotating mass attendance based on where he was going to be celebrating mass and preaching just to savor the richness of his sermon. And rich they were!

Yet it is important to point out that true to his name, “Nkea” which literally translates as “It is not I, it is you,” this gift did not let him turn away from the giver. Never preaching to impress but rather to win souls for God. He did not let the gift become an idol. Our Holy Father Pope Francis in his new encyclical notes idolatry is “a pretext for setting ourselves at the center of reality and worshipping the work of our own hands.” Yes, Bishop-elect eschewed this temptation.

As Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium (LG) states, “Among the principal duties of Bishops, the Preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For, Bishops are Preachers of the Faith, who lead new Disciples to Christ. They are authentic teachers, that is Teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice” (LG. 25).

In this year of the faith, what greater gift could the people of Mamfe ask for than to have a seasoned preacher like Bishop-elect, Andrew Nkea. Mere coincidence? One would not be wrong to surmise that the urgency to proclaim the Gospel not so much ad extra as ad intra, not so much to the heathens as to those within the Church, warranted the choice of this gifted preacher.

The announcement came five days after the release of Pope Francis’ first encyclical: Lumen Fidei – The Light of Faith. Through his word, the light of the faith would shine forth in Mamfe diocese. But as Pope Paul VI reminds us: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” And as Christ challenges all of us: Your light must shine in the sight of men so that seeing your good works they may give praise to your father in heaven.

When what has become known as the “maranatha” crises rocked Buea diocese, then Chancellor of the diocese and now Bishop-elect, Andrew Nkea rose to the challenge and showed true candor, fortitude and stamina. The one thing that stood out clearly during the crisis was the complete reversal of the cardinal principle of African tradition: Blood is thicker than water. Msgr. Andrew showed that the waters of Baptism super cede blood relations. True to type, many people read the crisis as two “bangwa people fighting.” Then Bishop elect was not afraid to lose the support of his clansmen. Truth trumped tribal affiliations and triumphed in the end. There is no denying it that it is thanks in part to the indefatigable work of then chancellor, that the diocese weathered the storm. His tenure in the chancery of the diocese of Buea could now be seen as prep time for the third duty of the Bishop, which is governance or more loosely administration. From my perspective, I have known the Bishop elect to be very diplomatic with civil authorities, pastoral with Christians and fraternal with priests. He is an administrator par excellence.

A surprising nugget in Bishop elect’s treasure chess which his profile on LinkedIn (and yes Bishop-elect is social media savvy) and all that I have read about him have failed to capture is the fact that he is a playwright. With Fr. Marcellus Bekong of blessed memory, he co-authored an unpublished play, “Chibili’s will,” which the drama club of St Thomas Aquinas’ major seminary, Bambui, thrilled the population of Bamenda and its environs with. It is a riveting tale of the Lekang society of the Nweh community and the demise of one of its leaders. What is at play here is the fact that in crafting this literary piece, Msgr. Andrew Nkea displayed knowledge of the culture of his people, which he truly appreciates that he could “codify” into a literary text. He is the cosmopolitan rooted in the traditions of the land but solidly grounded in the Christian faith. He is an African Christian par excellence.

But what has his literary genius got to do with his appointment?

Fr. Gerald Gurka, a priest and pastor in the diocese of Scanton, PA in his article, “Liturgy as theater,” so beautifully elucidates this: The Eucharist is, of course, an awesome sacred drama that goes beyond even the most superb theater production. It connects us to the creative wonder of God’s immense, mysterious love, which unconditionally allowed his son to become one of us, to suffer, die and rise for us and in us. The Mass invites us onto the eternal stage where no curtain or bad seat distances us or veils our sight.

As a playwright and actor himself, Bishop-elect Nkea truly comprehends this. The celebration of the Eucharist then is not just perfunctory and mechanical but animated by principles already incarnated in this skill. Hence, one can guarantee that the “dramatic” of the liturgy will be the experience of many in the diocese of Mamfe especially during this year of the faith.

Postscript:

This was not meant to be a panegyric in honor of Bishop-elect – Nkea; after all, good palm wine needs no advert; or even an attempt to justify the Vatican’s decision with this appointment, which would be lame for the Vatican needs no such corroboration. Rather this attempt, wanting as it is, should be read as an attempt to define in broad strokes albeit the ministry of the Bishop and how a mentor and family friend’s ministry has prepared him for the challenging ministry to which he has been called.

It would be presumptuous for me to seek to advise the new Bishop especially given my own inability even to ascend to the basic priesthood. But as a Catholic, I would dare offer some words to the new bishop.

Speculations were rife amongst ecclesiastical politicians (that many Christians are) that Bishop Awa was preparing his chancellor to replace him when he retires. This did not happen as Buea diocese got a new Bishop. With hindsight, divine providence seemed to be preparing you for this moment by testing you in the crucible of the recent crisis that Buea diocese suffered among its priests. As you must have learnt, a crucial part of your ministry will be in the relationship you have with your priests.

One of the many new functions you will have exclusive right to is ordination of priests. At every priestly ordination, the Bishop addresses the candidate as: “My son…” This is no mere formality. Neither does it draw meaning exclusively from the sociological “father-son” relationship but fundamentally from Trinitarian perspective.

My Lord, Bishop-elect Andrew Nkea think of and work for the welfare of your priests. Be a true father to them. Avoid creating soccer-like leagues in the diocese with some playing in division one and others playing in division two at best or at worst mere spectators. Help your priests to enjoy the priesthood.

May the good Lord in his mercy and goodness who has begun the good work in you bring it to fruition.

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed is he, Bishop Elect – Msgr. Andrew Fuanya Nkea – who comes in the name of the Lord. By Lambert Mbom.

Msgr Andrew Nkea       It was March/April 1999 or thereabouts. Now Bishop Lysinge did not show up for lectures. We later learnt he was away in Yaounde. Within a very short time he went to Yaounde twice. When he finally showed up for lectures, out of curiosity one of us as if inspired by the Holy Spirit asked him if he had been made Bishop. Very unlike Mola Lysinge, as he was fondly called, packed his books and left the classroom. 24 hours later, the seminary chapel bell summoned us all at an irregular hour to the chapel. The only other time that bell had rung at such an hour was at the demise of Fr. Sylvester Suh Ngwa and an impromptu rector’s conference in the chapel to address some burning anger management issues that had arisen from a soccer game. As we gathered in the chapel, we wondered which priest had died or what infractions merited such an emergency. Lo and behold, then rector Rev Fr. John Ambe broke the news: Habemus episcopum – Francis Teke Lysinge for the newly erected diocese of Mamfe. The joy was spontaneous as we lifted Mola, high and in song and dance around the seminary campus, savored the moment.

A similar scenario seems to have enveloped Bishop’s house Buea, last week when the announcement came of the appointment of Rev Fr. Andrew Nkea, as coadjutor bishop with right of succession to the diocese of Mamfe. The lone picture on Facebook shows his brother priests of the diocese of Buea throwing him in the air and surely singing and praising God in thanksgiving.

 We may take this for granted but with the recent events in the diocese of Makeni, Sierra Leone and diocese of Ahiarra, Nigeria we must celebrate this moment as a sign of maturity in the faith. At the announcement of Msgr. Henry Aruna, a southerner as the new Bishop of the diocese Makeni in the North, priests and Christians of the diocese locked the Cathedral in protest saying they were matured enough to have one of their own appointed as Bishop of the diocese. A similar thing occurred in the diocese of Ahiarra where the new Bishop Peter Okpaleke from the diocese of Awka is facing similar challenges.

 If the people of Mamfe want to know the caliber of person they have been gifted with, it suffices to read through some of the comments on Facebook: “ A square peg in a square hole,” “The people’s bishop,” “The voice of the people is the voice of God” “ Bishop Andrew Great and Holy man,”  “The right man in the right job, ’God’s chosen shepherd’”, “God has lifted you our father. You are blessed ohhhhhhhh,” “ Thank you Lord for Father Nkea. From grace to grace.” Very heart-warming to read one of the priests of the diocese of Mamfe write: God’s chosen and the right successor to Mola. We are very happy.”

 “This is a clear testament to the words of Yahweh expressed in the prophet Jeremiah: I will give you shepherds after my own heart. “ (Jer. 3:15)

 Born in the archdiocese of Bamenda, Bishop-elect Nkea grew up in the early years in the diocese of Kumbo, and has served as a priest for 21 years in the diocese of Buea and now this comes full circle with his appointment to serve in the diocese of Mamfe. Bishop Nkea is truly “metropolitan” or if you prefer “cosmopolitan.”

 Two very proud people on this day are Bishop-elect’s alma mater: St Thomas Aquinas’ major seminary, Bambui and bishop emeritus, Pius Awa of the diocese of Buea.

 In September 2013, the regional major seminary, Bambui will close the celebration of its fortieth anniversary. The election of Bishop elect Andrew Nkea is in deed an anniversary gift. It is worth remarking here that this seminary has become a breeding ground or better still a nursery for Bishops. This institution has produced nine bishops, four of whom were teachers and now five students counting. By any and every standard, this is a great feat, we rejoice and are glad.

 Bishop emeritus Pius Awa is proudly nodding his head as two of his confidants have become Bishops within seven years. It is remarkable that within so short a time, Buea diocese has provided two bishops to the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda, Msgr. George Nkuo current Bishop of Kumbo and bishop-elect Msgr. Andrew Nkea for the diocese of Mamfe. In fact, four of the six bishops of the Bamenda ecclesiastical province are from Buea diocese.  Archbishop Esua is an earlier pick followed by Bishop Lysinge. After all, Buea is the mother diocese of the province having given birth to Bamenda, Kumbo and Mamfe. In spite of its recent crises, Buea deserves a pat on the back.

 Today, like seven years ago, we must be grateful to Bishop Pius Awa for his foresight, his vision and for the training he afforded Bishop George Nkuo and Bishop-elect Andrew Nkea. He recognized the potential in them and let them blossom. If the magnificent job, Bishop George Nkuo is doing in Kumbo is anything to go by and it sure is (suffices to talk to any of the priests of that diocese and you get the raving remarks), there is no gainsaying it that the diocese of Mamfe is truly blessed with the new bishop elect who is la crème de la crème.

 Just as a friend remarked once that ordination to the priesthood is not a reward for being good in the seminary so too the appointment of a Bishop should not be misconstrued as a reward for a worthy priestly life. There are many good and hold priests and I dare say even better ones. No one takes this honor upon himself. Yet, grace builds on nature and to some extent one cannot help but echo the fact that possesses the sterling stuff Bishops are made of. And like somebody commented on Facebook, this is just the beginning of greater things to come. Next Cardinal? Next Pope? (To be continued)

Fatherhood: Gift and Task by Lambert Mbom.

Last week, I stopped by my tax preparer’s office not to file taxes given the tax season is over but amendments are always there. Throughout the time I spent there, the gentleman kept pondering aloud what he could present in his Christian community that captures the essence of fatherhood. That set me thinking but before long, he mentioned that maybe he should invite his son to come to his community and share what he has learnt from the dad about fatherhood.

For those of us sons who are now fathers, it seemed appropriate for me to meditate on a father celebrating father’s day with the father. It is often said that the true mark of a son is to do better than the father. While there are so many shades of gray needing clarification, the one question that bugged me on father’s day was what gift could I give my father? Buy him a car? Cannot afford one myself but my dad has always driven one even though he would appreciate one from me.

May be send him a few hundred dollars. And while am on this issue of money, it is worth remarking that one of the many things that scared some of us of fatherhood was whether one would be able like one’s dad to give money, daily for breakfast. My dad stepped up to the plate and kept his side of the bargain. He sent all five of us to the best schools money could afford and this without complaint. He only insisted on commensurate results. Could not have had a better dad.

As I continued pondering on what gift to afford my dad on father’s day in gratitude to one who slaved away to provide the best for my siblings and I, finding nothing tangible, I consoled myself that the best gift was becoming a father of whom my dad could proudly say: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” to borrow from scripture.

 And for those of us who proclaim God as Father, in whose Fatherhood we participate or whose generosity permits some of us to share that title with Him, one must daily strive to mirror Him so He could say of us: This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.

In this context then, one can understand why an essential part of fatherhood is being the breadwinner, the provider. The book of Genesis puts it more starkly “Cursed is the ground* because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken;” (Gen.3: 17-19) Only within this context can one make sense of the friend who remarked that the day his wife earns more money than himself, he’ll quit his job.  This is some kind of  healthy competition not in some narcissistic male chauvinism or worse still downright misogyny. The man must toil day and night to bring bread home.

It is so easy for those in the Western developed countries to take exception to this rule. Women make more money than men given that the lucrative professions are those for which women have a natural predilection. Hence a recent Pew research center study reports that, “Mothers are the sole primary source of income for a record 40 percent share of all families in the US.” This reversal of roles has tremendous consequences and is the source or potential source of family conflicts. The spikes in divorce rates are not unrelated to this trend. If a man commands respect by virtue of the power of the purse, when the woman holds the purse strings, the man becomes voiceless. There is no doubt that many African women in the US put in very long hours to eke out a living for their families.

On this father’s day, it is appropriate to rediscover the meaning of fatherhood. If we return to the Our Father, we find a clear enunciation of this in the verse: “Give us this day our daily bread…” If we circle back to the etymology of the word, father, we find a hint in the old derivative “feder.” The father is the feeder of the family one may say.

I must hasten to clarify here that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a wife making more money than the husband. The problem is when the man becomes complacent, lazy and even unappreciative. Complementarity must never become vain competition but rather each as equals contributing their very best to build the bonds of unity.

There is an inner connection between fatherhood and the priesthood. It seems fitting to draw a parallel between the two even as the feminists cry foul.  In his letter to declaring the year of priests on the 150th anniversary of the death of John Mary Vianney, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that the priesthood is both a gift and a task. One could therefore say, fatherhood is both a gift and a task.

A man only knows he is a father through a woman. Or better still, a man only becomes a father in and through a woman. On this father’s day then, it is imperative for fathers to be grateful to the women through whom the gift of fatherhood is afforded them. Every celebration of father’s day is essentially also a celebration of mother’s day. God “graces” us to participate in His Fatherhood through the woman. We receive the gift of fatherhood through the woman. Hence, there is no father’s day without mother’s day. It is so easy to rush to say thank you to mum. But on this day, it is more than appropriate to show gratitude to the mother of our “fatherhood.”

On this father’s day as we celebrate the gift of fatherhood, we must be eternally grateful to the woman through whom this has been made possible. But even beyond this, in accepting the gift, we must also step up to the task. Fundamental to this task is the fact that we are mere caretakers. As fathers, we are mere stewards. Hence it is worth asking: What kind of a father are you? A father farther and further away from home – an absentee father? Are we provident fathers?

No matter the case: Happy Father’s Day.

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