February is Black History Month being recognized and celebrated in Canada since 1996. Although I wonder how much it has been recognized and celebrated. As a nation we must continue to work for all people of our land to be “glorious and free” as our anthem declares. This comes with education, dialogue, and participating in events that highlight the contributions of Black Canadians not just in February but at all times. It also means we recognize that our nation is knit together with people from all lands and places and woven with the ancestral threads of our First Nations Peoples.
There are many noteworthy Black historical figures who have paved the way for a more just and respectful society. We often think of names like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Viola Davis Desmond or Rosa Parks. Rightly so these amazing people have brought to our attention our common humanity and dignity. I am not a Black man and can not speak to their history and experiences however I can appreciate it, learn from it and how it has influenced our world and the awakening for what is my part to do.
As I consider Black historical figures, I think of Black Saints. These men and women faced hardships and persecution but remained steadfast and faithful in the love of Christ. As St. Josephine Bakhita said: “I have given everything to my master (God): He will take care of me.” Josephine was a slave and for her to declare this statement is a testament of her trust in God. I’m sure she did give her all to her earthly masters but she saw beyond those limitations and trusted in the abiding love of God’s presence with her.
St. Josephine Bakhita – Feast Day February 8
“Who is the master of these beautiful things?… I had a deep longing to see Him, to know Him, and pay him homage…” – St. Josephine
you remind us that God’s beauty is present even when we are enslaved,
you inspire us to see this beauty in creation and in our brothers and sisters,
you encourage us to spend time with God and to give praise and glory for God’s constant beauty.
Pray for us.
St. Martin de Porres – Feast Day November 3
“There is no need to worry… Doesn’t God provide for the flowers of the field? He’ll take care of us as well.” – St. Martin
you remind us to trust in God in all stages of the journey,
you inspire us to share of our selves for the good of all,
you encourage us to care for one another as a human family.
Pray for us.
Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman – No official Feast Day – Entered Eternal Glory – March 30
“What does it mean to be black and Catholic? It means that I come to my church full functioning… I bring myself, my black self, all that I am, all that I have and that I hope to become, I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture…” – Sr. Thea Bowman
you remind us that the church is the reality of “here comes everyone”,
you inspire us to see the cultures and gifts of each other, sharing them to build the kingdom,
you encourage us to appreciate each other as a whole and the uniqueness of each other as individuals.
Pray for us.
Venerable Augustus Tolton – No official Feast Day – Entered Eternal Glory – July 9
“I heard the words of St. John “prepare the ways of the Lord” and God gave me the strength to persevere… God is over us all, and has many blessings for (men) people of every race.” – Fr. Augustus
you remind us that we are each called to persevere in preparing the way,
you inspire us to trust the strength that God has fused into us,
you encourage us to count our blessings.
Pray for us.
All Holy Men Women… pray for us.
During this Black History Month, I invite you to read a bit more about these amazing saints and many other Black Saints who have helped shape the church and brought truth about God’s love, freedom and mercy to our attention.
The quotes I share in this blog are from a book entitled: African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women by Camille Lewis Brown published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. A great little book for an encounter with amazing holy Black men and women from all generations.
As the song says:
Let us build the city of God.
May our tears be turned into dancing!
For the Lord, our light and our love,
has turned the night into day.
This is our prayer, indeed let us build together as we walk in the Light of Christ.
Photo Credits: Bing Images Search
Song: City of God by Dan Schutte