Page 3, 9th June 1961

9th June 1961
Page 3
Page 3, 9th June 1961 — AFRICAN DIARY

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Locations: Brussels


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Keywords: G, Religion / Belief

A Bishop's 'shopping list' to make one think


MUD AND MOSAICS, by Fr. Gerard Rathe, W.F. (Samuel Walker, 18s.).

-FT is astonishing that a book written as a simple diary should positively burn with the awesome brilliance of an Old Testament story-mighty like an "Exodus" with the power of God demonstrating His care for peoples who, though jets fly over their heads, seem thousands of years nearer to Moses and the children of Israel than they are to space flights, H-bombs, or television. On Good Friday, 1957, Fr. Gerard Rathe was flying over the Sahara at the start of a 20,000-mile journey to the.places that are making news: Guinea. Ghana, Nigeria. the Congo, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia. He had been invited to join a White Father, Fr. Vincent de Decker, whose job was to get firsthand information on present-day mission problems, and at the same time work for the International Exhibition at Brussels. Leo, who is not a Catholic, accompanied them as photographer.


MANY readers of the CATHOLIC HERALDwill recall some of the despatches that Fr. Rathe sent back: stories like that of Dr, Goarnisson the White Father Doctor with 27 years in Africa behind him and a fabulous reputation. This is the eye-doctor expert in cataract and trachoma operations to whom thousands of Africans to-day owe their sight. Sisters he has now trained have hundreds of sight-saving operations to their own credit and the gratitude of the Africans of Wagadugu in Upper Volta, and for many miles around. Fr. Rathe writes of the Easter Vigil with 4,000 people in Wagedugu's mud-walled iron-roofed Cathedral where the heat was so intense that Mass candles bowed "as if in adoration." Tremendous spiritual power and atmosphere flows from this book cutting right through political intrigues (and ignoring "travel agent" descriptions) to the rockbottom zeal and energy of the priests and nuns who pour themselves unstintingly into the race for souls whether it be with a huge net as in Uganda, or one by one with a rod and line as in a Dakar mission.


BUT the homely colour is not missed: for example. the sound of a lawn-mower at Mbarara where the author arrived just as French-born White eathei Bishop Ogez was to be enthroned, And listen to this Bishop's "shop ping


"When you get back to Europe", he told Father Rathe, "I want we can get the Sacraments to all our people once a year we are doing well . . . 10,000 were at Mass on the Feast of the Assumption , ."

What a contrast to the "two converts in 14 years" toil in West Africa.


ON to Rubanda, established as an autonomous mission in 1950 when it had 3,000 Christians. By 1957 there were nearly 12,000 Christians and catechumens and

47 new out -stations. Small wonder the three priests of Rubanda looked ill . .

The intensity of the Africa story becomes more staggering: Take Ruanda, where during his Mass, at what he took to be a small sidealtar, Fr. Rathe opened the tabernacle to distribute Holy Communion. "What a surprise and toy", he writes. "There was a huge


ciborium . . it was the 'mother' with seven small ones nestling round. this huge ciborium of sixteen thousand hosts is emptied once every ordinary fortnight, but emptied in one day on a big feast day!" The parish has 33,000 Catholics and catechumens.


WHILE writing of the big things Fr. Rathe at the same time has the happy (unfortunate adjective. perhaps!) knack of vividly recording a few of the material discomforts of mission lifeloaees out of which ants pour; the appaling stink of decomposing fish; meeting a viciouslooking buffalo "breathing hard through its nostrils I did not breathe at all for quite a long time"; falling 100 ft. down a ravine in a car which somersaulted

five times . . and everyone stepped out safe and sound and, of course, pictures were taken!

This mission diary is quite small, there are about 200 pages but no encyclopaedia could hold in full the stories behind the pen-pictures: Parched lands where "the symbolism of water came home so forcibly"; African people "moving in a mass into the Church in the Central African missions"; hundreds wailing patiently, sometimes years, to be received into the Church; tired, happy, anxious priests; the "cold, distant look of the Mohammedan"; Islam watching and waiting, the Church taking root in stony soil, the Church flourishing "we have built a church and a little house for the Father ... you promised a priest" but too often the bishop has no priests, no nuns, no money.


AT the beginning of this review I wrote of the awesome demonstration of the love and power of God in His African Church. Is there anyone who could remain unmoved at the experiences of Fr. Remigius McCoy, W.F. "The Rain-maker"?

Father Rathe tells this wonderful story in detail, fully annotated and authenticated. The scene is the Jirapa mission' in Ghana. The incredible story concerns an area of three miles where pitiless sun was killing cattle and crops and drying up the wells. Famine. threatened. And still there was no rain. The witch-doctors and pagan rainmakers worked overtime, but there was no rain. A number of people gathered in the church to pray, some chiefs joining in, others standing aloof. The same afternoon the rain came. It fell in torrents. But it fell only on the villages whose people had prayed for It. It did not fall on other villages until their chiefs came to pray.

I haven't given away all the best portions of this fascinating book; buy your own copy and pass it round your friends. Fr. Rathe is the ideal W.F., P.R.O., for bringing gripping reading to anyone (it should be everyone) interested in the Church at work in Africa.

Lay objections

Ur NFORTUNATELY he does '-' not fully meet some of the objections that occur to the lay mind. 10 begin with, psychoanalysis appears far too subjective a discipline to merit a place among the sciences. Freud himself wrote in 1938: 'The teachings of psychoanalysis are based upon an incalculable number of observations and experiences, and no one who has not repeated these observations . . . upon himself or upon others is in a position to arrive at an independent judgement of it' which rather rules all outside criticism out of court from the start.


MOREOVER, the analyst, who is the observer of the data upon which the teachings rest, is surely liable (unconsciously, of course), to influence the data at the point of their appearance owing to his close relationship with the person supplying those data. In addition, as an explanation of the causes and as a means of cure of mental illness, psychoanalysis would appear curiously limited: concentration on the unconscious would seem to inhibit the Freudian from giving full weight to other factors. both physical and mental, which may be involved. For all this, Dr 711boorg's short book is worth reading, both for those Catholics to whom Freud is still a bogey and for their more sophisticated brethren who prefer to take their psychology from Jung.


HIS tone is impartial throughout, and he shows a magnificent understanding of the different natures of science and religion. (On internal evidence one suspects him

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