Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Conversation with a Grandmother

Several weeks ago, at Sunday morning Mass, a newborn parishioner was baptised in our church.  Afterwards we were invited to dinner with the family, who are Nigerian - the child's grandmother had travelled from Nigeria to be present.  We fell into conversation with her, and the subject came round to churchgoing in her home country.  In her parish, she told us, there are four Masses on Sundays (6 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and an evening Mass).  She laughed as she told us that the morning Masses all overrun, so that the 8 and 10 o'clock services begin hopelessly late, even to the order of hours!  This is not least due to the fact that the parish church, which holds two thousand worshippers, is actually overflowing on Sundays.  This is not in a particularly large urban area, but in a town between Abuja and the coast.

Nigeria is a country which bears, and has borne, much suffering.  There is still material poverty and political instability.  It is well-known that much of the north-east of the country is threatened by Boko Haram, which is convulsed with hatred for Christianity and has had bombs set off in full churches.  Martyrdom is real and even familiar. I had been aware that the Church in Nigeria was growing nevertheless, but this vignette seems to me to give startling hope.  The new grandmother herself radiated a kind of forthright joy which gave rise to outbursts of 'To God be the glory!'... her British interlocutors struggled to supply the hearty echoes required!

This hope is not only for Nigeria; it overflows into other lands, I think, much as the churches overflow.  This is what the Church is like outside Europe.  Surely this flourishing will beget many vocations - I am thinking of the priesthood in particular.  Among Nigeria's sons, perhaps among those being baptised even now, will surely be counted a great number of priests, many of whom might well relish the challenge of the New Evangelisation in the West.  Their confident and joyful faith would make them tremendous missionaries in our sulky, disillusioned culture.

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