Kinshasa, DR Congo: Celebrating Consecrated Life
Among Christian festivals Candlemas is one of the oldest on record, with references going back to the fourth century.
Its date, February 2nd is traditionally the 40th day of the Christmas- Epiphany season, and marks the time that Christians in some countries take down their Christmas decorations.
I do not know whether DR Congo is included among these, but did notice that the huge Christmas tree that I found still standing on the square of the Gare Centrale here in Kinshasa when I arrived two weeks ago, was taken down the day before yesterday. By design ….by chance? Who is to say? So much in this amazing country is unpredictable. It did strike me as rather incongruous to have it still standing there at the end of January!
In 1997 Pope Saint John Paul II instituted day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Candlemas.
So yesterday here in Kinshasa a multicoloured gathering of some 700 religious in a bewildering variety of outfits and garbs came to celebrate at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Congo in Kinshasa.
Mgr Edouard Kisonga, auxiliary bishop of Kinshasa, presided over an quietly meditative Eucharistic celebration. The choir’s beautifully rendered Gregorian chant did not invite the usual lively participation I would have expected at such an occasion…..
The victims of the violent repression of recent peaceful marches by Catholics were remembered. But the focus of Bishop Kisonga’s homily was on a deepening of the understanding of the vocation to religious life and the challenges it presents.
When, at the end of the celebration, the large fleet of ecclesiastical vehicles had melted back into the chaotic traffic on the avenue passing the cathedral, Fr Stanislas Bondoko mhm, Bro Jean Paul Fuila and myself made our way to a local restaurant for a celebratory meal. Like the local language my taste for the local brand of beer – Primus – has come back upon arrival in this country. Here’s to Teresa of Avila who famously exclaimed when challenged on how she sometimes celebrated: ‘When there is partridge, you partridge!’.
Fons Eppink mhm
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