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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.

 

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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 – 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)

Cameroon’s Ambassador to the US & His “Etat Major” meet with Cameroonians working at the World Bank. By Jacob Foko

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYNqwA2zKqshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYNqwA2zKqs

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: The Vocation to Motherhood by Lambert Mbom.

On the last day of the Christmas Octave (eighth day after Christmas), which happens to be the first day of the calendar year, the Church invites us to celebrate Mary as mother of God. This celebration highlights one of the four Marian dogmas with the others being the Immaculate Conception, perpetual Virginity and the Assumption.

The dogma of Mary, mother of God draws its inspiration from the Christological clarifications at the council of Ephesus (431), which said Jesus Christ is two natures and one person. Clearly then, one cannot stress enough the fact that Mary’s light draws its power from Christ. The Marian reality draws its power from the Christological even though foundational to this Christological is the Marian Fiat: Be it done unto me according to thy word. In these words, Mary epitomizes the genius of motherhood.

 Our contemporary society is in a crisis of motherhood. We live in an age that is “allergic to children.” We must look to Mary, the daughter of Zion, to rediscover the meaning of motherhood. In the first instance, motherhood is a gift. Mary expresses this thus: I am the handmaid of the Lord. Bearing a child is first and foremost a divine gift that elicits human response. A child is a gift: given and received. To be a mother then is to receive actively, be a divine conduit – God’s handmaid. God extends his creative act to the woman. Properly understood then motherhood is not a right but rather a privilege. God is the starting point and not the petri dish or the comfort of the living room: Be it done unto me according to thy word. This is passive in an active way.

How does this play out in the drama of contraception and abortion so prevalent in this age and time? The Catholic Church in America often celebrates the annual right to life march in January. On the first day of the New Year, the Church’s invitation to be pro-life resounds in the Fiat: I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word. Women are challenged to truly appreciate the gift and value of motherhood. To be a woman is to be a mother. Womanhood finds its fulfillment in motherhood. Pregnancy is not an illness, the prevention of which is contraception and the cure, abortion. Far from bring a negative imposition impinging on the woman’s right, depriving her of choice, pregnancy becomes a celebration of the path to motherhood.

We live the contemporary paradox where more and more women try to and/or steal newborn babies, very often to please their husbands and save their marriages. Others think the best show of their freedom and right is to dispose of life willy-nilly. If only more women could truly appreciate the gift of motherhood, the discourse on contraception and abortion would shift gears.

Beyond being a gift, motherhood is in fact a vocation. Helen Alvare’s “Breaking through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves,” is an excellent read for Catholic women in this year of the faith. She describes motherhood as the “basic vocation to love.” It is “finding-oneself-by-losing-oneself.” It is this “losing” – in a sense a surrender of oneself that this Christmas season invites us to rediscover. Physically, some fear motherhood because they lose the mannequin or chic physique to a bulk as the woman bulges forth during pregnancy. Or what is more, her once elegant breasts suffer the wear-and-tear of breastfeeding. The physical bodily exasperations that come with pregnancy cause some women to shun motherhood. As a revolt against male chauvinism and careerism, the vocation to motherhood is in decline.

Alvare captures this reality when she notes “Our world views motherhood as a waste of time, economically worthless, socially disvalued and particularly so by comparison with the many other paths opening up for women.”

We must never forget that Motherhood is a vocation, a path to sainthood or more properly holiness. Christmas is a celebration of motherhood.

Motherhood also helps sustain marriages. This not only in the sense that now the husband values the wife more, if at all. The mother discovers the husband through the son. Alvare drives the point home when she notes that: And I can see qualities in my husband – unselfishness, determination, wise planning – I would not likely otherwise have seen. Having boys on particular has helped this feminist grasp the charm of males qua males. (A friend and I recently laughed to discover that we had both told our husbands how much we had learned to love about men by raising sons, and how useful it would have been to have raised the boys first, and then (I) met their fathers.

It behooves us to broach the question of barren couples. While some presume children as a natural outcome, the true character of the gift is appreciated when one realizes that there are some who either through no fault of theirs or by the consequence of some previous action cannot bear children. This is a very difficult situation especially for Africans in a culture where a man without a child is a curse. There are too many families torn apart because of this and unfortunately too often the blame is on the woman. Christmas rings out a message of hope for such couples to be patient. The bible is replete with examples of God’s miracle to barren couples – Isaac, Samson in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New Testament, to cite but these. The brevity of human intuition precludes us from waiting for God. The fact of barrenness once again shows us that motherhood is a gift and not a right. Learning to wait for God is a timeless Christmas message.

Christmas also invites us to consider adoption. By the incarnation of Jesus Christ we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. St Paul so eminently discusses this (Romans 8:15, Galatians 3:26). Joseph at the angel’s recommendation adopted Jesus Christ as his son. He is often referred to as foster father of Jesus Christ. Even though it is not because they were barren, barren couples are invited to consider the adoption route. If you cannot bring forth children you can adopt them and if you cannot adopt them you can give birth to them in Church by being sacramental sponsors. 

In this year of the Faith, those who have given birth to children in Church as Godparents must renew their vows and ask themselves how they have helped to groom the children in their faith. Godparents also share a huge part of the responsibility of those who leave the Catholic Church for one reason or the other because these parents failed in their responsibility to be Godparents.

May Mary, mother of God whom we invoke every time we pray the Hail Mary, intercede for all women, mothers and barren couples. 

Beneath the ashes of LESAN Philanthropy to the embers of Christian Humanism. L

If LESANS of every expression and none were to enter into any fundraising competition, they are sure to score the A-list. They are quite professional at it and in fact classy.

In 2010, the African Union declared 2010-2020 the decade of the African Woman. 

Ghanaian Prof, Dr. Aggrey captures the magnificence of the education of the woman when he notes: If you educate a man you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. Education of the girl child in Africa is by all standards ad rem and a noble ideal.

But don’t we also know the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

It is not as secular humanists or atheistic humanists that LESANS labor every year to “give back” to their alma mater. Summoned by their faith, they respond as “Christian girls” and seek to improve the lot of many- a-girl-child in Cameroon. In short, love is the cardinal axis propelling such enormous sacrifices. And this love is not just “agape” but also “filial” as adopted daughters of Christ. The acts of charity are more than mere humanitarianism. The adjective “Christian” qualifying girls in reference to LESANS makes all the difference. It is a very big deal. It is not just the accidental frosting or occasional icing on the cake. 

St James reminds us that show me your faith without works and I by faith will show you my works. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:16)

One temptation to eschew within this context is that these acts of kindness could feed off into self-aggrandizement and vain glory. They may become acts of self-adulation and worship. Just as the heavens proclaim the wonders of God and the firmament the glory of the Lord, so too our good works must shine in the sight of men so that seeing our good works they may give praise to our Father in heaven.

If it is as Christian girls that LESANS raise funds to help underprivileged children, they cannot afford to circumvent some key standards.  I am sure LESANS will remember with nostalgia, the words of this hymn they chanted often at mass:

“If you bring your gifts to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gifts at the altar.

First make peace with your brother then come offer your gifts at the altar…”

This hymn enunciates a central principle in Christian charity: Peace precedes charity and becomes a conditio sine qua none for genuine charity. The heart that propels charity cannot at the same time be the engine for hatred. We must reexamine our acts of kindness to be sure they are not just a smokescreen or forms of manipulation. 

Virgil in Greek mythology in another context says it well: Fear the Greeks even when they come with gifts. This may just be another Trojan horse.

The great apostle, Paul, provides in that beautiful hymn of love in 1 Cor. 13, the litmus test for Christian charity. The whole chapter is worth pondering and spending time with. For the purpose of this reflection, v 3 stands out: I may give away everything I have, and even give up my own body to be burned, but if I have no love, this does me no good.

How many times do we say: Charity begins at home. 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor.)

Charity begins at home. LESANS must come back home.

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