|June 25, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 17|
African Mass celebrates cultural heritage
Christianity and the African culture are much intertwined and this key message was emphasized at the African Mass celebrated June 16 at Holy Rosary Church in Richmond.
Although Holy Rosary in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood was the site of the celebration, many of those who attended in traditional African tribal attire came from various parts of the diocese.
Saying that he felt “humbled and honored to preach and preside at the Mass,” Father Silvio Kaberia, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Virginia Beach, said that Christianity in Africa is growing faster there than in any other part of the world. However, he said, Catholics should not feel triumphalistic but grateful.
He pointed out that when Pope John Paul II came to Nairobi in 1995, he said that Christianity in Africa goes back to the period of the Church’s very birth.
“The first centuries of Christianity saw the evangelization of Egypt and North Africa,” he said. “A second phase, involving the parts of the continent south of the Sahara, took place in the 15th and 16th centuries.
“A third phase, marked by an extraordinary missionary effort, began in the 19th century.”
But all was not always well, the priest intimated.
“There were good times and bad ones — just like the economy,” Father Silvio said. He used the image of a pendulum to compare problems in one age and expansion in another, glory in one period and persecution in another.
“We should all persevere in times of difficulties,” Father Silvio asserted.
The priest, who will become pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Harrisonburg on July 1, said that the spiritual life and secular life of Christians should not be separate.
“There’s no aspect of our spiritual life that should be delegated to another life,” he said.
Likewise, decisions in political life affect our spiritual life.
“Our spiritual life is not separate,” Father Silvio asserted.
“Religion should permeate all areas of our life,” Father Silvio said. “We cannot be Christians on Sunday and during the entire week we put our faith in our pocket.”
African spiritual faith is often expressed in singing and this was much in evidence throughout the Mass which lasted about an hour and a half.
“That is why we sing and dance and jump up and down,” Father Silvio said, smiling.
“This is not to say that others who do not do so are not religious,” the priest added.
Cultural expression of one’s faith, particularly Christianity, should be encouraged.
“The Church is enriched by different cultures,” Father Silvio said. “We cannot be removed from the culture from which we came, but we must adapt and get involved in the culture to which we go.”
“We have to adapt,” he continued. “If we don’t adapt, we cannot survive. God has already given us that.
“God wants diversity in unity.”
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