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Father Claude

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I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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A Muslim Angel


The Liturgical Calender

In the last week of September, we of the Roman Catholic literugical calender, celebrated 3 feast days that were especially significant (at least for me, and it seems, for the Church in Uganda: Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Mickey, Gaby and Rafy, for their friends) on Sept 29, St Therese de Lisieux (or little Tess, for her friends), Oct 1, followed by the feast of all those luminous and sacramental reminders that someone,
somewhere, always cares that you exists and shows that love in unexpected ways.

Muslim angels?

Dave Burrell and I were driving to Makerere University for Sunday Mass. Dave was asked to preside and give the homily. We were about 20 minutes away from Makerere, in deep conversation, and mistakenly drove into the wrong lane at an intersection. A chubby policeman began screaming at us, asking what we thought we were doing, "breaking the law like that". He motioned for us to drive to the side of road. We did that. He came stomping over like someone who had just bagged two musungus (whites) in his net and was about to skin us alive. I looked at my watch and thought that at best, we would arrive to late for the Mass. Dave -- who stepped out of the car to speak with the policeman -- would at best have to explain as humbly as possible that there was some confusion at the intersection and that we had no intention of breaking the law, especially on Sunday morning...

Now, a car pulled up in front of us with the entire family inside. They were looking at us (I am still in the car, Dave walking toward the cop), and the driver -- obviously father of the family and with full Muslim regalia since it was still Ramadan -- walked majestically over to Dave and to the policeman and began to talk with our chubby cop. After a quick conversation that I did not understand (was the cop a Muslim too?), Dave returned to the car smiling: "He told me it was ok, and that we could continue our journey". The Muslim father returned to his car, smiling, and drove away. He had apparently noticed us and our dilemma -- priests,on Sunday, etc -- and decided to do his good deed for these two musungu Catholics. We arrived at Mass with plenty of time. Next day, during the celebration of the feasts of the archangels Micky, Gaby and Rafy, we realized that it was the Muslim Rafael, the archangel that protects voyagers on their journey, or his Muslim counterpart, that was sent to help these latter-day voyagers, like Rafael was sent to protect Tobiah, some years ago (Check out Tobit, chs 5 - 12 if you have any doubts)

Muslims and Christians

I've discovered that Muslims in Uganda have much better relations with Christians than Christians (Anglicans, Catholics and Evangelicals) have among themselves. Anglicans arrived with their colonial, British authority with priority of place and power. Catholics had to struggle to find their place. Today, Muslims, represent a small minority in a very Christian country. Uganda is intensely religious, representing most of the world's great religious tradition, with a powerful undercurrent of indigenous religious traditions. Although a minority, Muslims are very visible with their distinct clothing and their concentrated presence in special occupations ( such as drivers of trucks, taxis, boda-bodas--motor bikes, selling goods at intersections), and also because of the strategically located mosques on the tops of several hills. All year, but especially during Ramadan, Muslim cantors call us all to prayer, day and night.

The Little Flower, the Angel from Lisieux

On Wednesday, Holy Cross joined a large community of Ugandan nuns in Fort Portal to celebrate 50 years of Holy Cross presence in East Africa. This celebration (the first of several) was sponsored and directed by the Sisters of BanyaTheresa, centered in Fort Portal. They were founded in the early 1940s but were given their modern identity and self-confidence by the first bishop of Fort Portal, Vincent McCauley, CSC. He must have been an amazing person and charismatic bishop since the nuns practically canonized him the spot. They put on a full day of litrugy, skits, meals, dances, songs and overall celebration that was simply spectacular. They obviously consider him to be Guardian Angel of their community. And, judging from the maturity, intelligence and sophistication of this community of mostly young nuns, women have found a place in the Ugandan church -- and it is not in timid subordination to a hierarchical and masculine organization. This church finds its strength and maturity in the most unexpected and delightful places.

Fort Portal, Mountains of the Moon and the Great Rift Valley

After the celebrations of the Banyatereza nuns, David Burrell and I drove to our Novitiate, nearby on Lake Saaka, a volcanic lake situated near the mountains, between Lake Albert (to the north) and Lake George (to the South -- and Lake Edward, more to the South) -- strategic names, lest you might forget that the Brits were the first colonizers here for their greater honor and glory, Amen.

At the Novitiate we found bright, young motivated novices from Ghana, Uganda and Kenya. We had a delightful time, sitting on the veranda with other Holy Cross priests and brothers, watching the sun set, and later (much later) rise on one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes I have ever seen'

Immediately beyond the lake are the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains, the famous "mountains of the moon", rising to over 17,000 feet, and introducing (farther to the North) the RiftValley that extends all the way through Sudan and finally ends in Turkey! Here too, in this humble region of the border with the Dem. Republic of Congo, vast reserves of oil have been found by an Italian consortium!

Permalink | Friday, October 3, 2008